THE OLD ROMAN"
The Life Story of
CHARLES A. COMISKEY
The "Grand Old Roman" of Baseball
and for Nineteen Years President
and Owner of the American
League Baseball Team
"The White Sox"
G. W, AXELSON
The Reilly & Lee Co.
The Reilly & Lee Co.
All Eights Eeserved
Made in U. S. A.
" Commy "
I BASEBALL OE BEICKS 7
II THE GAME BECOMES A BUSINESS 25
III THAT HOLE IN THE FENCE 42
IV * ' DEE Boss PEESIDENT " 55
V A $15,000 SLIDE 77
VI COMING OF THE SUPEEMEN... 93
VII THE EEVOLT OF THE BEOTHEBHOOD . . 108
VIII " COMMY " BECOMES AN OWNEE 121
XI WHITE Sox AND WAS 133
X PLAYEBS' BENCH TO SWIVEL CHAIB. . 149
XI THE " HITLESS WONDEES " AND Two
XII TWO PlTCH-OuTS AND A MESS OF BASS . 180
XIII PUESE STBINGS AEE UNTIED 201
XIV DIG SPIKES IN FIVE CONTINENTS 219
XV BASEBALL THEILLS FOE A KING 242
XVI BLAZING NEW TBAILS 263
XVII FEOM " COMMY 's " FEIENDS 279
XVIII A PEN PICTUEE OF THE " OLD
ROMAN " 300
XIX BY " COMMY " HIMSELF. . . 314
BASEBALL OR BRICKS
High lights in Comiskey's career Libertys claim
him first World loses indifferent teamster but
gains a great ball player Born in the greatest
baseball city The original White Stockings of
1870 Two jolts for Cincinnati Red Stockings.
In the Centennial year of 1876 there appeared
on Chicago's diamonds a tall and lanky youth
known to local fame as a pitcher. He brought
into the game a sinewy right arm, a pair of
speedy legs and a strong individuality. An event-
ful career of forty-three years has well-nigh
robbed him of all but the last. But this indi-
viduality sets him apart from others now as it
did in '76. Were it otherwise there would be no
occasion to enter upon the life story of Charles
Albert Comiskey, known to millions as a player,
manager, club-owner and man.
Cast in a daring mold he scorned precedent
8 " Commy "
and cut loose from tradition to the advantage of
the sport which he has helped to make America's
own. As a player and manager he blazed the
way for a new game on the ball field. He pried
the first baseman loose from the bag to which
he had been anchored since baseball was young
and he himself set a pace in the position that has
not been surpassed.
Comiskey made a mobile force of the infield
and his aggressiveness compelled the overhaul-
ing of the playing rules. He turned baseball
from the channels of evolution into those of revo-
lution and while still in the flush of youth became
its greatest exponent. He brought four successive
pennants to St. Louis. He has given to Chicago
as many. He topped the eight with three world's
titles: eleven in all a record without a paral-
lel in the sport.
Becoming master of his own fortunes he sought
out new worlds to conquer. His energy, daring
and judgment became proverbial. " Comiskey
tours " came to have a new meaning in the
peregrinations of ball teams. De Luxe specials
supplanted the day coach. He was the first to
pitch his training camp in foreign lands. His
autumnal jaunts into the wilds of the northern
woods at the head of the faithful, marked the
peak in hospitality.
Baseball or Bricks 9
Having explored every nook and corner of his
native land he looked beyond the seas, circled
the globe, and the opportunity was afforded the
elect of the earth to see the White Sox and Giants
Being the champion hard loser of the universe
he took chances that others dodged. His optim-
ism, the heritage of his race, saw him through.
New ventures became commonplace. Paying
$50,000 for a ball player was a mere formality.
The building of a half-a-million-dollar baseball
plant was a matter of bookkeeping dependent
on the balance in the bank.
As for his principal hazards, Comiskey himself
confesses to only one gamble the invasion of
Chicago with his White Sox. On this he staked
everything he possessed and in addition gave a
mortgage on the future. Within a few years he
was in sole possession of a major league ball
club 'the only player who had ever risen from
the ranks to that distinction. He is the only
American or National league owner without a
partner in a business where turnstiles alone dic-
tate the size of the bank account.
Around the council table his fellow owners
respected his judgment from the beginning.
Rival magnates insisted that he was the brains of
the American League, but regardless of opinions
10 " Commy "
all came to love Mm for what he was a man.
His physical makeup and personal traits made
him the " Old Roman " to the millions who
watched him as leader of the St. Louis Browns.
To his pals, who are legion, he was, and is, simply
" Commy, " and by that appellation he will be
best known to posterity.
Comiskey's entrance into baseball did not
differ greatly from that of other boys of his age.
He learned the game on the prairies as did the
rest but unlike others he chose it as a calling
while to the majority of his team-mates it never
was anything but a pastime. A load of brick
proved the turning point. An irate father unwit-
tingly aided him in making his decision.
It was on a summer's day in 1876 that the
future owner of world's champions encountered
his destiny at the corner of Jackson and Laflin
streets in Chicago. From the driver's seat of a
brick wagon he noticed that the Libertys ' pitcher,
trying out for an important contest with the
Franklins, was having the life hammered out of
him, on a nearby diamond. Dropping the reins,
as he hopped down from his perch, the batters
soon were swinging at different curves.
Two miles to the northeast there were loud
calls for bricks. Chicago's City Hall could not
rise from the ashes of '71 without them. Tele-
Baseball or Bricks 11
phones not being available in those days it was
not until the shank-end of the try-out that the
mystery was solved. It was about that period
in our national sport that " Honest John "
Comiskey, alderman from the Seventh Ward and
Democratic leader, found the charioteer of the
load of brick on the point of striking out the side.
The discovery and surprise were mutual but
each kept his own counsel. The father swung
himself up behind the bays and departed. The
son finished the game and went home> but with
some trepidation. He surmised that he had come
to the parting of the ways. It would have to be
baseball or bricks. At the family council that
night the world lost an indifferent teamster but
gained a great ball player.
Forty-one years later the Chicago City Council,
in meeting assembled, on the very spot towards
which that load of bricks had been headed, passed
the following resolution:
Whereas, Our favorites, the White Sox,
have won the pennant in the American
League and with it the right to compete in a
series with the New York Giants for the
World's Baseball Championship, therefore
Resolved, that the City Council of the City
12 " Commy "
of Chicago hereby extends its congratula-
tions to Charles A. Comiskey and to the
members of his baseball team for their splen-
did victory, and its best wishes that the
White Sox may win further honors for them-
selves, their owner, and Chicago, by showing
New York's team that the " I Will " spirit
is not to be denied.
The span measures the time between the un-
finished journey from the brick-yard at Twenty-
second and Laflin streets to the corner of LaSalle
and Washington, and the completed pennant race
in 1917. Comiskey was the headliner in both
incidents. Tack on seventeen years and you have
his age at that time, counting from August 15,
Important changes have marked that period of
three score years. Baseball has had its share.
At Comiskey 's birth the game was just discard-
ing its swaddling clothes. As he grew to man-
hood it could still be considered a novelty.
Critics might disagree as to the newness of the
pastime, accepting the verdict of history that it
had been played as early as 1839, or even before
that year, yet it was not until the early Seventies
that it was generally recognized as America's
" national " sport.
Baseball or Bricks 13
Prior to the Civil War days there were sporadic
attempts to organize teams but it was not until
the late Sixties that the sport assumed a sectional
character. What contests there had been were
purely of local interest. The Knickerbocker Club
of New York was organized in 1845 and the first
match game on record was played a year later at
Hoboken, New Jersey. It may be noticed that
through the " aQe " scoring which prevailed in
those days, only four innings were required by
the " New York Club," a pick-up nine, to get
the first decision.
As early as 1866 the sporting authorities of
that period considered baseball of national
importance, even though no intersectional leagues
had been organized and no schedules drawn up.
The following is taken from Charles A. Pever-
elly's " Book of American Pastimes," published
at New York, 1866:
The game of baseball has now become,
beyond question, the leading feature of the
outdoor sports of the United States, and to
account for its truly proud position, there
are many and sufficient reasons. It is a game
which is peculiarly suited to the American
temperament and disposition; the nine
innings are played in the brief space of two
and a half hours or less. From the moment
the first striker takes his position and poises
his bat it has excitement and vim about it
until the last hand is put out in the ninth
inning. There is no delay or suspense about
it from the beginning to end ; and, even if one
feels disposed to leave the ground, tempo-
rarily, he will generally waive this desire,
especially if it is a close contest, from fear
of missing some good point or clever effort
of the trial.
An American assemblage cannot be kept in
one locality for the period of two or three
hours, without being offered something above
the ordinary run of excitement and attrac-
Wherever established it (the game) has
quickly had the sentiment and good feeling
of the community with it, and with scarcely
an effort, achieved solid popularity. Having
no debasing attributes and being worthy of
the presence of the good and refined, it has
everywhere been countenanced and encour-
aged by our best citizens: and, of the thou-
sands who gather at important matches, we
have always noted with sincere gratification
that the ladies constituted an honored pro-
Baseball or Bricks 15
It is to be regretted that Alderman Comiskey
had not perused Peverelly's book at the time of
the halted brick wagon. Had it formed part of
his library he possibly would have developed a
more lenient attitude towards the pastime and
kept his son at home. In that case Milwaukee,
Elgin, Dubuque, St. Louis, Cincinnati and St.
Paul, would not have had the opportunity to
boast of the prowess of the lean twirler and
Although the historical side of the sport will
only be lightly touched upon in these pages the
genesis of the game in Chicago will be discussed
at some length as it has a direct bearing on the
later activities of the man who grew up with the
modern game and who probably has done more
than any other to put it on a firm footing. Fate
decreed that Comiskey should first see light at
Union and Maxwell streets, in the greatest base-
ball city on earth. He had the advantage of
growing up in a section of the country that
afforded its " future greats " plenty of elbow
room, eventually enough for nearly 1,000 teams,
amateur, semipro and full blown professional.
Alfred H. Spink, author of " The National
Game," a valuable treatise on the sport, contends
that " next to New York, Chicago is the greatest
baseball city in America," Mr. Spink, who was
16 " Commy "
bom in Chicago and who became a citizen of
St. Louis by adoption, may be pardoned for his
impartial but debatable assertion, as Gotham
seems to have had the edge on the city by the
Lake in the length of its baseball history.
Charles A. Comiskey, however, is also a Chi-
cagoan by birth. He has been a temporary so-
journer in the Mound City, in New York, and in
fact, in most every other city and hamlet, in and
out of the country, where baseball has been
played. The " Old Roman " is not given to
extravagant speech and his opinion should have
some weight. He says :
Chicago is the greatest of all baseball
cities. I make no exception although I have
been treated well wherever I have been. It
is the greatest city because the fans will .
stick to a loser season after season. I have
had my share of defeats so I should know.
Boston and St. Louis come next; in fact I
believe I would give the palm to the latter,
as the fans in Boston have shown themselves
A winner in New York is apt to wear out
the turnstiles but the " average " crowd is
not up to the standard with a loser. At
home here my team ha^s played to 12,000
Comiskey at the opening of his $1,000,000 baseball park in 1910.
Baseball or Bricks 17
and 15,000 on a weekday .with the club in the
second division. That is the test of loyalty.
It may be surmised that Chicago was loyal
from the start but historians are a little hazy
as to what actually happened in the early days.
A team called the " Unions " played town ball
somewhere on the prairies as far back as 1856.
In 1859 the Excelsiors break into print in " The
Spirit of the Times," published in New York.
A communication from Chicago, dated May 1,
The baseball clubs of this city are in
active . preparation for their . season, which
promises to be a lively one. There are
three or four clubs here. The Excelsiors is
the most prominent one, and is one of the
pioneer clubs, having been in existence for a
year or more. It was the first club to adopt
the new style game played under the rules
and regulations of the National Association
(organized in New York, 1857) known as
the New York game. The Excelsiors make a
nice appearance on the ball field in their
new uniforms, which consist of long white
pants and white shirts made of English
flannel. Their practice days are Tuesday
This was the modest beginning of baseball
journalism as practiced three months before
" Commy " first saw light. Fifty-eight years
later the wires from New York carried into a
single Chicago newspaper office on a single night
20,000 words on how the Chicago White Sox
defeated the Giants for the World's Baseball
The Civil War put a quietus to baseball in
Chicago as it did the country over, and it was
not until 1865 that the game again began to
show signs of life. Then a new Excelsior team
was put in the field with the Atlantics as their
strongest rivals. After trimming each other
and mowing down less pretentious opponents
three years were spent in strengthening these
teams, unconscious of the need Chicago would
have of them in repelling a coming invasion by
the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
The Bed Stockings were out-and-out profes-
sionals. The Excelsiors and Atlantics were ama-
teurs. Taking on the Excelsiors first, June 21,
1868, the Beds tumbled the Chicagoans 43 tto
22 and on the following day the Atlantics fell
28 to 9.
The defeats were most important to baseball
in Chicago as they served to bring to the front
the original White Stockings, predecessors of
Baseball or Bricks 19
the White Sox today, in name at least. The
team was organized in the fall of 1869 for the
purpose of putting the city on the baseball map.
In reality it was built to take the measure of the
Red Stockings, who had just finished the season
without losing a game, a record which never has
After the Reds' visit in 1868 baseball in
Chicago boomed as never before and teams
sprang up like mushrooms. Diamonds girdled
the city, the limits of which were not as far-
flung in those days as at present, being marked
on the north by Division street, on the south by
Twelfth, with the " farthest West " at the inter-
section of Ogden avenue and Madison street.
The city boasted of only one enclosed field but
these were the days of real sport and " future
greats " were far more contented among the tin
cans around Bull's Head Tavern than are the
" fifteen thousand dollar beauties " arrayed in
Among the teams which battled on the West
Side prairies at the time the curtain was rising
on the pastime were the Libertys, Actives,
Mutuals and Neversweats. The principal team
on the North Side was the Atlantics which later
became known as the Aetnas and which wound
up as the Franklins. The Pastimes were con-
20 " Commy "
sidered the class of the South Side while the
future loop district sheltered the Excelsiors.
The survival of the fittest being the law of
the prairies, certain teams with the best backing
in bone and muscle finally gravitated towards
fixed spots and thus we find in the late Sixties
the Actives established at Lake and Ada streets,
the Libertys at Madison and Western, the
Mutuals at Van Buren and Leavitt streets and
the Pastimes at South Chicago.
At this period there also appeared upon the
scene the Dreadnaughts, who did not belie their
name as they nearly made a clean sweep of
opposing teams. The pitching prowess of
" Cherokee " Fisher, an importation from the
East, and the skill of Ole Olson at first base
were mainly responsible for a long list of Dread-
Great players graduated from these rough
diamonds and not a few attained national fame.
From the Aetnas came such stars as Jack Car-
bine, first baseman of the Louisville National
League team; Jimmy Hallinan, short stop of the
original White Stockings; Paddy Quinn, one of
the first receivers to catch close up to the batter
without mask or gloves; Hughey Eeid, a noted
Chicago pitcher; Paddy Lynch, great first base-
man, and Graves, a star fielder.
Baseball or Bricks 21
The Foley Brothers, Tom, John, Charles and
William, with the Actives, were all sterling
players; Mike Brennock, W. B. Lapham and
McClelland, were others. Em Gross, who later
became the catcher on the champion Providence
team, was with the Pastimes as was Bill Phillips,
later star first sacker on Cleveland's crack team.
The Libertys turned out such players as Ike
Fleming, a corking catcher in his days and,
incidentally Comiskey's first manager; Mike
Hayes, noted pitcher; the O'Day Brothers, Dan,
James and Henry, the latter " Hank " of the
National League umpire staff, the dean of his
profession. The name " O'Day," however, is
not to be found in the early lineups. It was
plain " Day," the excision of the " " being
due to the elder 'Day's opinion of the game,
which coincided with that entertained by Alder-
Individual objections to the " frivolous pas-
time " did not, however, prevent the organiza-
tion of the White Stockings, who were backed
by business men prominent in the city's affairs.
Native talent had predominated in the lineups of
the Excelsiors and the Atlantics and their
defeats by the Reds had been a distinct blow to
local pride. After the Eed Stockings of 1869
had swept the country from Frisco to New York,
22 " Commy "
the exigencies of the occasion demanded heroic
measures and sentimental considerations were
thrown into the discard. The country was
combed for players and this team resulted:
William H. Graver, catcher; Levi Meyerle,
Edward Pinkham and Tom Burns, pitchers;
James McAtee, first base; Jimmy Wood, second
base; Meyerle, third base; Charley Hodes, short
stop; Edgar Cuthbert, left field; Fred Treacy,
center; and Clipper Flynn, right field.
After much strategy on both sides the two
teams were matched and clashed at Dexter Park,
September 7, 1870, a memorable occasion in
the baseball annals of Chicago. Opposed to the
White Stockings were this galaxy of Red Stock-
ing stars, perhaps the greatest collection of
players which the country had seen up to that
Asa Brainard, pitcher; Douglas Allison,
catcher; Charles Gould, first base; Charles
Sweasy, second base; George Wright, short
stop; Fred Waterman, third base; Andrew
Leonard, left; Harry Wright, captain and cen-
ter, and Calvan McVey, right field. Richard
Hurley was the substitute.
As of historical interest it might be pointed
out that the salaries ranged from $1,400 to $800.
George Wright received the former figure. His
Baseball or Bricks 23
brother Harry was in receipt of $200 less.
The chronicler of the day indulged in gladia-
torial similes, and judging from all accounts,
everybody got his money's worth. The score,
10 to 6 in favor of the White Stockings, was
considered close enough to call for another
game and the Reds returned on October 13 for
one more drubbing, this time 16 to 13. The
historian had this to say about the teams:
No finer looking teams have ever taken the
field than were these two. Every player of
each team was in perfect condition. Dis-
cipline and good order were in evidence,
too, the men appearing in clean and showy
The Chicagos wore white flannel caps,
shirts and stockings and blue trousers while
the Cincinnati boys were dressed in white
shirts and trousers with red caps and stock-
ings. Each and every player seemed to be
in the very pink of condition and each of the
two games was magnificently played and
The fact that ropes had to be stretched around
the field was ample proof that Chicago was
taking to the game. The civic spirit manifested
in the backing of the victors left no doubt in
24 " Commy "
the minds of the critics that the White Stockings
had located in the right town. Taking into con-
sideration the handicaps under which the
" avengers " labored they made a good start
towards advertising the future motto of Chi-
cago. They had no grounds to practice on in
the spring of 1870 and it was not until 1871
that they found a home, Chicago's first league
grounds being located at the foot of Lake street,
east of Michigan avenue.
In the meantime the White Stockings had
joined the National Association of Professional
Baseball Players, finishing third among the clubs
left at the end of the season of 1871. In the fall
of that year came the great fire and it was cur-
tains for the game until 1874 when the league
was again honored by a White Stocking team
with a fifth place berth at the close. In 1875,
the last year of the association, they were sixth.
Promotion was rapid after that, as in the fol-
lowing year the National League was organized
and Chicago took its rightful place among the
great in the baseball world.
THE GAME BECOMES A BUSINESS
The spirit of the West ' ' Revolving ' ' becomes
popular "Honest John" Comiskey Cobwebs
on plumber's tools Story of 10 per cent and a
$15,000 gate Comiskey becomes a ' ' regular ' '
Baseball and books Ted Sullivan makes a dis-
Up to 1871 Chicago had conducted a defensive
campaign in baseball. Few teams went outside
the city limits, although, then as now, they were
ready to meet all comers. Local pride dictated
the strength of the teams and it is not on record
that a single combination was organized for
show. There was no such silk-stockinged aggre-
gation as the Knickerbockers of New York,
whose prominence was accentuated more by
gastronomic performances than by feats on the
There is no intention to cast a slur on the
old " Knicks " as they did their part in laying
the foundation for our national sport, yet, there
was a vast difference, in the early days, between
baseball in New York and Chicago. The social
26 " Commy "
side had equal or greater weight than the play-
ing end in the East while in the West it was all
11 the game." On Chicago's fields, from the
waving prairies on the west to the lake, from
the morasses on the south to the wild-woods on
the north, all were equal, once in baseball uni-
form. There was no distinction on account of
birth and breeding, and that spirit prevailed, to a
large extent, in the entire territory west of the
Alleghanies. Batting and fielding averages alone
decided the fitness of the plumber and the dandy.
This made the transition from amateurism to
professionalism open and above board as against
the complaisant attitude of the East where semi-
professionals and out and out " pros " mas-
queraded as amateurs, to the detriment of the
The Cincinnati Red Stockings made the effete
East blush when their pay checks were made
public property. So ingrained was the amateur
idea, even up to the late Sixties, that the
Nationals of Washington insisted on waving
aside all gate receipts during their memorable
trip in 1867. Still, promising players were
offered lucrative positions, both privately and
with the government, could they but see their
way clear to join the invincible team of the
The Game Becomes a Business 27
In Chicago, however, the question of amateurs
and professionals was never raised. For several
years there was no chance to be anything else
than the former as the receipts collected on un-
enclosed fields were not enough to defray the
expenses to and from the games. When neces-
sity arose the city went out and bought a winner
openly, instead of surreptitiously, as was the
fashion elsewhere and, with the organization of
the White Stockings, baseball in Chicago flour-
ished as a " business,'* a calling as honorable
as any of the other professions.
Certain purists might regret that, as a national
sport, it did not follow the lines of cricket in
England, where professionalism was and is
subordinated to amateurism, in theory if not
actually. Early promoters of the game held that
it always would retain its amateur status but
they failed to take into account the human
equation, the spirit of rivalry which it engen-
dered and the will to excel. Had it remained
only a healthgiving pastime and had it never
functioned as an amusement these hopes might
have been realized.
Thriving on competition, the sport drew to
itself the red-blooded youth of the land, because
it not only served as an outlet to physical
exuberance but it was the nearest approach to
28 " Commy "
" peacetime war >; which, in turn, was trans-
lated into victories and defeats. As the average
American is a hard loser, rivalry increased wher-
ever a ball was put into play. The basic prin-
ciple of the game being centered in decisions it
was but natural that both sides should strain
every nerve to win. The defeated team would
naturally scour its own neighborhood, after a
losing battle, for talent to strengthen its attack.
The victors of to-day would, in turn, become
the losers of to-morrow and the recruiting would
continue until the time when one or the other
had combed the vicinity clean or, by a succession
of victories, would have arrogated to itself un-
disputed mastery on the village diamond.
As the circle increased in size, and the exigen-
cies of the occasion demanded, offers to exchange
allegiance became more tempting. A bag of
marbles, a share in the " swag," or any other
bait may have marked the crossing of the line
but whatever the lure, the player had become a
professional, in theory at least. It was then up
to the ethically inclined to draw the distinction
between the boy whose remuneration had been
extracted from the community treasure house
and the man who succumbed to a $5,000 contract.
The " revolving " of players, as it was called
in the early days of the game, was perfectly
The Game Becomes a Business 29
natural and, without it, the game probably never
would have become national. It was necessary
to its development but it was death to amateur-
ism. There may be some consolation in the fact
that from the ashes of the latter rose the only
simon-pure national professional game a pas-
time which has stood the test of time and which
is to-day the squarest sport on earth.
The great majority of teams in the west
were, of course, amateur both from choice and
necessity from choice because possibly they
could afford it; from necessity because of the
lack of a " gate." Professionalism carried with
it no disgrace as it did in most of the eastern
centers, and the west, as soon as the game had
become solidly organized, made baseball a real
profession, with no stigma attached to its prac-
As late as 1871 and, after the Cincinnati Red
Stockings had popularized the professional end
of the sport, Harry Wright, the former leader of
this peerless aggregation, went to Boston to
organize a regular league team. Such was the
prejudice against " pros " that Wright did not
dare to openly announce his intentions of having
none but paid members on the roster. Instead,
the subterfuge of the counting room, the railroad
office and the political berth w T as resorted to.
30 " Commy "
The fallacy and hypocrisy of this procedure was
pointed out to the progressive manager and he
abandoned the experiment and, with some mis-
givings, boldly announced the signing of a team
to play ball. The Hub fans took kindly to the
innovation and in time the rest of the seaboard
fell in line.
In Chicago substantial business men tagged
the professional game with respectability by the
universal backing of the White Stockings. The
city dug into its jeans for the money necessary
to build a team that could take the measure of
the Bed Stockings and it has adhered to this
effective method ever since. Win or lose, any
combination with a Chicago emblem has been
supported as in no other city in the country.
This spirit naturally had its influence on the
youth and contributed not a little to the reputa-
tion which the sport has enjoyed since the first
ball bounded over the virgin soil.
It was into such an atmosphere that the wil-
lowy youth, hailing from the neighborhood of
Union and Maxwell streets, was ushered in the
early Seventies. In the same wholesome sur-
roundings he is rounding out his wonderful
career. To the average business man, engrossed
with the affairs of his particular calling, the
gradual steps from batboy to president and
The Game Becomes a Business. 31
owner of world's champions may not in them-
selves seem unusual in this age of super-achieve-
ments but to the millions of fans who have
followed the fortunes of Charles A. Comiskey
they have a world of meaning. Within the
period of " Cominy's " manhood is embraced
the complete development of the marvelous game
in which he is one of the most commanding fig-
ures and the services rendered to the sport by
him have been equaled by few and surpassed
by no one.
Comiskey 's influence on the game surpassed
his actual accomplishments, important as these
were, especially from the time he took charge of
the old St. Louis Erowns to the present, a period
of 35 years. From the bat-toting days of '69
down to the swivel chair stage of 1919 his life
has been an open book to the millions who have
perused the pages of the daily press. During
all that time the finger of suspicion never has
been pointed in his direction.
What is even more remarkable, considering
the fact that " Commy " has figured in pub-
lic print for well over a third of a century, he has
yet to make a request for a " retraction." To
anyone versed in the intricacies of newspaper
reporting and the numberless controversies
which our national sport develops this record
32 " Commy "
of the player-magnate is unique. Add to this
the fact that the esteem of his fellow players,
managers and owners is as great as that enter-
tained by the army of fans, and the distinction
The superlatives which might be applicable to
his later years have, so far as is known, no
place in the description of " Commy 's ' ' boy-
Young Comiskey was just like any other young-
ster who had to be useful around the house,
However, he developed strategy early, an attri-
bute called into requisition in order that he
might satisfy his craving for outdoor sports.
His father, John Comiskey, was of that type of
man who abhorred idleness and frowned on play.
He insisted that work and education were the
prime requisites to success and he decided that
his children there were seven boys and one
girl should have both.
The elder Comiskey came from a sturdy stock.
In rectitude and sternness he might have felt at
home among the Puritans of New England had
his forebears been from any other spot than
County Cavan, Ireland. The following is a pen
picture of him furnished by Henry F. Donovan,
editor and publisher of Chicago, who knew him
S j^fggj* vH
Comiskey as manager and first-baseman of the
St. Louis Browns.
The Game Becomes a Business 33
John Comiskey, the father of the popular
baseball king, Charles A. Comiskey, was
for many years one of Chicago's leading
citizens, and one of the men who helped to
make Chicago great. John Comiskey was the
first president of the city council of Chicago
under the old city charter which provided for
that office. For eleven years he was an alder-
man and a useful and honored one. He was
first elected in 1859 from the old Tenth
ward, still representing it when its num-
ber was changed to the Seventh and still
its representative when it became the Eighth.
This ward was one of the most respectable
in the city and was peopled by the flower
of the Irish race in America. Mr. Comiskey
was a great representative for it and was
honored by all classes. He was courtly in
manner, eloquent in speech, honest and
aggressive in all things, and always a gentle-
John Comiskey was born in Crosserlough,
County Cavan, Ireland, and came to Amer-
ica in 1848, settling in New Haven, Connec-
ticut, where he went into the lumber busi-
ness. Not pleased with the East and its
opportunities, he came to Chicago in 1852
and for a time had charge of the incoming
34 " Commy "
freight on the Chicago, Rock Island and
Pacific Railroad. He afterwards became
superintendent of shipments at the Pitts-
burgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago cattle
yards in Chicago the Union Stock Yards
not then being in existence.
He was deputy United States internal
revenue collector under President Andrew
Johnson and was clerk of the Cook County
Board for several years.
Although living in the " easy " age of poli-
tics when brown stone fronts usually followed a
few years in office, he died in 1900, the year
that his son put an American League team into
Chicago, in the same modest dwelling in which
he had spent his life.
Unlike his son the father considered the West
Side as the center of Chicago and there he married
Miss Annie Kearns of Albany, New York, in 1852.
Of the family of eight Charles was the third,
a favorite of the mother whom he remembers as
ever ready to take his part when chided by the
father for his unseemly attachment to the " friv-
olous " game the boys were playing on the lots.
Although the elder Comiskey was willing and
anxious to give his children an education he
was also insistent on a trade. He argued that
The Game Becomes a Business 35
the former might become a liability but there
could be no question of a handicraft being an
asset. Thus the future owner of champions
was first set to massage lead pipes under the
eye of one Hogan, who rejoiced in the title of
" master plumber."
This arrangement worked well enough in
the winter when the snow was on the ground
but with the first sign of spring the cobwebs
settled on the plumber's tools. As these accu-
mulated Comiskey senior decided to give his
offspring a front seat on the brickwagon where
we have already discovered him, as he deserted
it for the diamond. His trait of making up his
mind on the instant cropped out then as it did
In the spring of 1917 Comiskey sat at the
dinner table in the Rice Hotel at Houston,
Texas. It was shortly before the United States
declared war on Germany but at a time when
the country expected the momentous decision to
be taken. I laid a telegram from the editor of
the Chicago newspaper, with which I was con-
nected, before him. It read:
11 Please ask Mr. Comiskey if he will donate
10 percent of his gate receipts to the American
The " Old Roman " fumbled for his glasses
36 " Commy "
a moment, couldn't find them, and said: " What
is it all about? "
He was told and after a pause of, perhaps,
fifteen seconds, replied: " Tell the editor that
it will be a pleasure to give the money. But is
10 per cent enough? I don't think it is. I owe
my country everything I have and it can call
on me for every cent I possess. To offer all is
the least we can do, we who are too old to go
to the front, should that become necessary."
After the answer had been formulated he
tapped his fingers on the table for an instant
and a shade of disappointment came over his
face as he remarked : ' ' I should have thought
about that myself."
A similar incident occurred during the play-
ing season in 1918. The Chicago women in
charge of entertainment of soldiers and sailors
needed a hostess' house in Grant Park. They
went to B. B. Johnson, president of the Amer-
ican League, who put the matter in my hands.
Knowing that Mr. Comiskey was being
" touched " for every kind of charity I hesitated
when the suggestion was made that I " see
what Mr. Comiskey could do." However, I
went and he was asked to donate a percentage
of the gate receipts of a Chicago-Cleveland
The Game Becomes a Business 37
As at Houston, the canvasser was floored
when, as soon as the owner of the Sox had
found out what it was for, he said:
" A percentage is not enough. You must
have my entire share of the gate receipts and
I will try to make it a big day."
With the co-operation of James C. Dunn,
owner of the Cleveland team, and a sportsman
of the Comiskey type, $15,000 was realized.
On that summer evening in 1876 it was more
of a momentous decision that " Commy " made
than parting with the gate receipts two score
years later. A career was at stake. Perhaps he
did not appreciate that it was for life, but it would
have made no difference. After he had made
up his mind, it was settled, and, as he fondly
hoped, his good right arm would see him
through. He did not figure on that kink in
his throwing " wing "' which developed in a
couple of years.
He was seventeen years of age at the time and,
except at brief intervals, the cottage on Union
and Maxwell streets saw him no more. He cut
home ties for good in 1877 even though he was
hazy in his mind as to the next move, but hav-
ing specialized in the national game, to base-
ball he turned.
He had achieved the distinction of being
38 " Commy "
change pitcher for the Libertys, a team which
was cutting wide swaths on the prairie dia-
monds. Perhaps, like other boys of his age,
he conjured up his triumphal return to the old
homestead and the deference to be paid him by
the *' cop " on the beat, who had chased him off
proscribed lots after an unlucky foul through
a neighbor's window had terminated the game.
Possibly, he even cogitated on the chance of con-
verting the " old man " to the sport, but he
must have had his doubts about this as the inci-
dent connected with his try-out was still fresh
in his mind.
" Commy 's " debut as a " regular " followed
shortly after he had clamped on the brakes on
the wagon in Jackson street. After several
overtures he had been given a trial on the
Libertys, whose manager, Ike Fleming, had
decided that he would do as a pitcher. The
Libertys had arranged to meet the Franklin
team, another strong amateur combination. It
was with many misgivings that Comiskey went
into the box, but the score of 2 to 1 in favor
of the Libertys confirmed him in his belief that,
perhaps, he could make a living at something
else besides swinging the curry comb.
This game, Comiskey 's first regular contest,
was played in Lincoln Park. On the team
The Game Becomes a Business 39
which backed up the youthful pitcher were
William Healy, catcher and later alderman; Ike
Fleming, manager and first base and still in
the newspaper business as he was then; William
McGrady, second base, for many years con-
nected with the Cook County treasurer's office;
Johnny Fitzgibbons, third base; George Eddy,
of Eddy's Foundry Company, short stop; Dan
O'Day, Charles McGrady and Mike Hayes, out-
Professionalism had thrived for several years
in Chicago, but young Comiskey did not dare
to aspire to a place on the crack teams, which
now included the first Chicago National League
team, an aggregation which was to win the
initial championship of the parent organization,
and one from which he was later to wrest the
world's title. Through a knot hole in the
fence he watched such artists as Spalding, An-
son, White, McVey, Hines, Barnes and others
and decided that he didn't " belong," but would
seek an opening with less pretentious company.
From the time he was in short trousers at St.
Ignatius College " Commy " had combined the
art of pitching with the more abstruse problems
in mathematics and kindred studies so, when
he was promoted to St. Mary's College in Kan-
sas, he had arrived at that stage where the
40 " Commy "
college director considered him good enough
to lead the freshman team as captain. His
older brother Jim was catcher on another nine
at school while he himself frequently took his
turn behind the batter.
One Ted Sullivan seems to have cut the big-
gest swath on the St. Mary's grounds, the Ted
who later in life became the greatest organizer
of baseball clubs and leagues in the history of
the game. Ted was shortstop and occasionally
took a fling at pitching. When Ted was pitch-
ing he wanted Charles as battery mate.
11 I picked out Comiskey," related Ted, " be-
cause I considered him the smartest kid on the
teams. One incident will show how quickly,
even in those days, he grasped an opportunity.
I noticed that a runner on third was taking a
rather big lead. Comiskey signalled for a cer-
tain ball. I shook my head. He signalled for
another and I repeated. Finally I left the box,
all the time upbraiding him because of his bone-
head strategy. He never said a word but met
me half way, and still bawling him out I slipped
him the ball while I returned to the mound.
" All set behind the bat and Comiskey whipped
the ball to third nailing the runner by ten feet.
I did not tell him what to do. I simply wanted
to find out if he could think for himself. From
The Game Becomes a Business 41
that time on I began to have respect for Charles,
and he was only a kid at that."
The admiration seems to have been mutual
and the acquaintance formed had important con-
sequences for baseball.
In due time Comiskey was transferred to the
Christian Brothers College at Prairie du Chien,
where, in the opinion of Comiskey senior, the
opportunity for studying baseball was on a less
THAT HOLE IN THE FENCE
What became of Sir Thomas Shaughnessy 's $50
Comiskey enters on a career of speed The ' ' cop ' '
and the pass New wrinkles in slides He shows
the world how to play first base Helps to win a
pennant Appears at Sportsman 's Park ' ' He
will do " is verdict.
After the Comiskey family council Charles
remembered Ted and turned to him for advice.
Sullivan at this time was the manager of the
Alerts in Milwaukee, his native city. Ted needed
a pitcher and Comiskey was engaged. The man
who furnished the money for the uniforms and
equipment was Thomas Gr. Shaughnessy, now
Sir Thomas, former president of the Canadian
Pacific Railroad and during the war, purchasing
agent for the British government.
There was a wooden fence around the Alerts'
grounds but a hole on one side made a free gate
to anyone who cared to enter. Sullivan's plead-
ings moved the backer of the team to contribute
$50 for lumber. Some time later, the hole being
still there, Shaughnessy accosted the manager.
That Hole in the Fence 43
" Why, the $50 you gave me," said the urbane
Ted, " I handed to that lanky pitcher over
there. He needed the money as much as I
needed his services and, besides, Charles Comis-
key is a friend of mine."
Shaughnessey watched the curves which the
young man handed up and allowed that the
manager had been wise in his choice. He jotted
down $50 for ' ' general expenses ' ' the Alerts
being an amateur team, salary couldn't figure
in the account.
" That $50 for a month's work was really the
first money I ever earned as a ball player,"
said Comiskey, in relating the incident. As
he was talking he thumbed a check book on his
desk, the stub from one- showing that he had
paid a certain player now on the White Sox
team at the rate of $83 a day or $33 more than
the " Old Roman " received for a month's work.
With the advent of winter Comiskey buckled
down to a useful trade but on the coming of
spring he said good-bye, to return as the undis-
puted head of his own house. He moved to Elgin
to become the pitcher on the watch factory team.
At Milwaukee his success had been only mediocre
as Sullivan was unable to find a catcher who
could hold him. To guard against this con-
tingency he took his own battery mate, Eudolph
44 " Commy "
Kemmler, to Elgin with him, and such was the
pitching of Comiskey and the backing he re-
ceived that the watch factory team did not lose
a single game, a record which, in a small way,
matched that of the Eed Stockings eight years
Although Comiskey, during many a season,
failed to get the requisite speed out of his ball
club, he himself started at a pace which few
were able to follow. He doted on speed. To
his way of thinking, no pitcher could show
enough of it, while his catchers insisted that he
had entirely too much. It was the same on the
bases. With his team behind, the runners all
looked like ice wagons to the peppery youth
from Chicago. If in the lead he expected every-
body to practice sprinting for the next game.
He was a glutton for totals. Never was the
score big enough. He could always show after
the game that they should have had another
tally or two and, to his way of thinking, players
were on the field to run up the score.
That Comiskey never let up in his pace
either on or off the ball field, can be corroborated
by a crossing policeman on Michigan avenue,
at Thirty-fifth street in Chicago. Here is where
" Commy " usually turns to go to his ball park.
The boss of the White Sox had known the
That Hole in the Fence 45
" cop " for years and annually presented him
with a season pass to the games. The fact that
" Commy's " chauffeur was in the habit of tak-
ing the corner on two wheels had nothing to do
with it, but at length Casey began to have his
doubts. Flagging the hurrying magnate one
day the policeman apologetically approached the
auto and delivered this ultimatum:
" Mr. Comiskey, if you don't slow up on my
beat I will have to give you back my pass."
Being unable to take a trimming with equa-
nimity, " Commy " early acquired the reputation
of being the hardest loser wherever he appeared.
He fought fairly, but he never could get it
out of his head that Fate had picked out the
other side for the doormat. Providence, he
figured, was always on his own side, but he also
made it a rule to be helpful in presenting the
strongest lineup and, if this was not feasible,
to take advantage of every weakness of the
As a kid pitcher Comiskey depended on speed.
Later he added an effective out-curve, a ball
hard to hit, according to his contemporaries.
Using an underhand delivery his height did
not give him that assistance which it does to
the overthrow, but there was no question about
his effectiveness. He had the batter under his
46 " Commy "
thumb most of the time and no slugger faced
him the second time but he knew what to feed
There has been a difference of opinion whether
" Commy " classed among the really great pitch-
ers. He himself says that his arm gave out
before he had a chance to find out. Those who
played with him claim that the fact that he
seldom could get a backstop to hold him in-
fluenced .him to quit the box before his time.
One thing is certain. Regardless of the condi-
tion of his salary wing his head would have
made it a fifty-fifty proposition for the batter
for some years.
Being a pitcher he could not be expected to
lead the batting order, but at that he was usually
placed pretty close to the top. He was no Tip
O'Neill in slugging, but no pitcher took liberties
with him the second time. He seldom put the
ball over the fence, but instead devoted his
energies to getting the twirler in a hole. Pinch
hitting was his long suit.
Not having time to develop on the pitcher's
mound, it was his work on the bases and in
fielding which became distinctive. He was fast
on his feet but he could hardly be regarded
as a " ten second man." Yet there were few
who had the art of base-stealing down to a
That Hole in the Fence 47
finer science. Getting on, he was a runner not
to be trifled with. If the chances were even
he was certain to advance a base or two. If
they were less he was smart enough to wait
for the inevitable break.
It was risky to slide in the early days of the
game on any except the best kept diamonds.
Feet first and it might mean a broken leg or a
twisted ankle. Head first and it was " raw
meat " from the shoulders to the hips. With
Comiskey it was the latter and many give him
the credit of originating the trick. Bill Gleason
the ' ' Bill ' ' of the Browns writes that he
had never seen anyone go head first before
Comiskey came along and taught this particular
" hook " to the boys.
" I started sliding head first," Comiskey
explained years after his first stolen base,
" because I figured that to be the most advan-
tageous way of getting a close decision. It
is true that as the game developed, the greater
number of players went feet first into the bag,
but this is risky in more ways than one, even
though it is more comfortable than the other.
It sometimes means a broken leg, and in any
case the runner is unable to see the bag. Of
course, combining the phenomenal skill and the
extreme speed of a Ty Cobb, the feet first slide
48 " Commy "
has certain advantages, but for all-around effi-
ciency the head slide, in my estimation, has the
shade. The runner knows where he is going,
he can watch the movements of the fielder and
his arms have the edge over the legs in reaching
for the bag."
Is the " hook " slide a modern innovation?
Comiskey says it is not. As evidence he cites
the fact that several of the old Browns used it.
Then he calls to mind the Kelly " spread."
rpjjg < hook slide ' is simply physical skill
combined with head work," says Comiskey. " As
we couldn't depend on substitutes to do either
our work or our thinking in the old days we
had to figure out certain things for ourselves.
The slide was one. I don't think we called it a
' hook,' but it amounted to the same thing. Any-
how, the ' Kelly spread ' was as effective and
differed little from the hook. Anyone who
aspired to be known as a base-runner used it.
Among the stars who used it were Welch and
Latham of the Browns and Kelly and William-
son of Anson's team.
" Welch slid into a bag either way as, in fact,
did most of the crack runners in my day. We
only varied the performance as the bruises on
our bodies dictated. It was much like broiling
a steak. If rare on one side, turn it over. It
That Hole in the Fence 49
was before fancy sliding pads had been invented
and I want to bear testimony to the fact that
the runways were no softer than they are now."
How Comiskey revolutionized the playing
around first base, and how the rule makers were
compelled to fortify themselves by a new code
in order to keep the baseball structure from
falling apart, as well as other developments,
will be discussed in that portion of the story
devoted to the Browns. The traits which he
exhibited as a youngster, however, stuck, and
if his playing in later years showed any marked
difference, it was only in its application to
changed conditions. His initiative, dash, quick
thinking, grasp of details, inventiveness and
clearness of vision were as conspicuous on the
prairies as on the major league diamonds.
The future owner of the White Sox stepped
into his first uniform in 1875 but his real base-
ball education did not begin until 1878, the year
he came regularly under the eye of Ted Sullivan.
The latter had moved to Dubuque, Iowa, in order
to take charge of a news agency, but after he
got this into working order his thoughts went
Comiskey, being a free lance both as regards
baseball and trade, Sullivan had no trouble in
persuading his former school-mate to become a
56 " Commy "
citizen of the Iowa town, the ambitious organ-
izer offering him $50 a month during the sum-
mer for playing ball and 20 per cent commission
for supplying travelers on the Illinois Central
Railroad with reading material and confections
during his spare time. Combined, this being a
considerable advance over the inducements
offered by Hogan, master plumber, it was
accepted and Comiskey became a " leaguer."
Sullivan, in the intervals needed to check up
on his train crews, took time not only to get
together the Dubuque team, but also to organ-
ize the Northwestern League, the first minor
league in the country to finish a season. He
had the backing of the late Senator Allison and
Congressman D. B. Henderson in this project,
the latter at one time speaker of the House of
There was no clause in the contract of the
19-year-old player about pitching twice a week
or any such modern innovation, but he was
expected to prove himself useful at first, second,
third and in the outfield, as occasion demanded,
besides taking his turn on the mound. The all-
around job fitted in with the remark he made
later in discussing the Browns when, explain-
ing the dearth of substitutes in that world-
famous combination, he said:
That Hole in the Fence 51
" Sometimes we had ten and, occasionally as
many as twelve men on the team, but if the
manager put a player on the bench in those
days, he made an enemy for life.'*
The toam which Sullivan put together in 1878
was a good one but it was greatly improved in
'79. Ted then made his first swing around the
circuit and picked up Thomas J. Sullivan, a St.
Louis boy, who had made good as a catcher
with the Worcester team; L, P. Reis, pitcher for
the Chicagos the preceding year; W. B. Lapham,
first baseman of the Worcesters; Charles Rad-
bourne, of Bloomington, Illinois, a fielder and
utility pitcher; while the home talent consisted
of William Gleason, third base, and J. Ross,
right fielder. Ted himself ranked as infielder
and pitcher while Comiskey was pitcher, in- or
outfielder, as opportunities presented them-
They were no ordinary players, these more or
less " unknowns " who broke into the headlines
of the Dubuque papers for the first time. Rad-
bourne, for instance, became one of the greatest,
if not the premier pitcher of all time; William
Gleason added to his fame as short fielder for
the Browns; Tom Loftus not only developed
into a wonderful second baseman but made an
enviable record as manager and owner later in
52 " Commy "
life; Sullivan became the organizer, par excel-
lence, and as for Comiskey, he outshone and
outlasted all the rest.
The league, which consisted of Dubuque, Rock-
ford, Omaha and Davenport, brought out many
other stars. Rockford had Jack and David
Rowe, pitchers; Goodman, first; George Creamer,
second; Redmond, short. The incomparable
Biddy McPhee played on the Davenport team,
while Jim Whitney and W. D. Cantillon, the
later to become general manager of the Chicago
and Northwestern Railroad, entertained the
Sullivan's aggregation won the championship
but proved a financial failure, and the manager
decided that a free lance combination would be
less risky, and in 1880 the semi-professional
Dubuque Rabbits succeeded the title holders.
It would be well to remember these Rabbits,
for on this team appeared Charles Comiskey
as a regular first baseman, a position which
he held for eighteen years. After his pitching
arm had begun to give him trouble he had played
third base with success but, from the minute he
appeared at the initial corner, critics recognized
in him a player born to the position.
The royal remuneration of $50 a month failed
to turn his head and he continued his railroad
That Hole in the Fence 53
run during the winters, his combined duties
keeping him in Chicago and Duhuque, by turns,
up to the beginning of 1882. During the summer
of '81 Sullivan had been invited to bring his
" Babbits " to St. Louis for a game with the
newly organized Browns, which he did. The
game was played on the Grand Avenue grounds,
July 16, and resulted in a 9 to 1 victory for the
home team, on which were found " Commy's "
old team mates Jack and Bill Gleason.
During the overheated combat St. Louis fans
were given the first glimpse of Charles Comis-
key, who played an errorless game at first base.
The admiration must have been mutual, for
from that day to this the " Old Roman " has
had nothing but praises for the Mound City,
while for years after the old Browns had been
swallowed up by the new, they were still naming
babies after the great first sacker.
The box score failed to show anything remark-
able, but it may be noticed that Tom Loftus got
one hit and Comiskey the other, a two-bagger.
The lanky visitor also played his position with-
out an error, accepting twelve chances. As they
are of historical interest, the statistics of this, his
first game in St. Louis, are here given as tabu-
lated in " The National Game ":
54 " Commy
ST. Louis AB R BH PO A E
J. Gleason, 3b 5 1 1 1 3 3
W. Gleason, ss 5 1 1 1 6
McCaffery, cf 5 2 2 2
Seward, c 5 1 3 9 1 1
Morgan, rf 5 1 1 1
McGinnis, p 5 1 1 1
Magner, If 5 1 1 2
McDonald, 2b 4 1 2
Gault, Ib 4 2 10 1
. Totals 43 9 12 27 12 5
DUBUQUE AB R BH PO A E
Sullivan, p, ss 4 1 2 4
Loftus, 2b 4 1 3 3
Comiskey, Ib 4 1 12
Ross, c 4 2
Burns, 3b 4 2 1
Lear, rf 4 2
Morrison, ss, p 400023
Keys, If 4 2
Phelan, cf 4 1 1
Totals 36 1 2 24 11 5
Earned runs Browns, 8. Two-base hits McGinnis, Gault,
W. Gleason, Comiskey. Bases on balls Sullivan and Magner.
Umpire Charles Levis. Official scorer A. H. Spink.
Although there were others among the visitors
more famous than the first baseman, Comiskey
seems to have been the cynosure of all eyes and the
verdict at the close was that he " would do."
Von der Ahe bursts upon the scene " Commy "
as head of the Browns "Der boss president"
levies fines and is "stung" Calls Spalding's
bluff The $20,000 train Comiskey dons brown
socks Never forgets two-bit experiment Rule
makers " fence " him in.
St. Louis was a charter member of the National
League and held a franchise in that organiza-
tion during the years 1876 and 1877. The ambi-
tion to possess itself of a winner led to its
downfall and the throwing up of the sponge
after the close of '77 season. In order to assure
a championship to the city the owners signed,
among otheis, Graver, Devlin, Nichols and Hall
of the Louisville club. Soon after the signatures
of the four had been affixed to contracts, came
the revelation of the " throwing " of games in
the preceding season by this quartet and their
eventual expulsion from organized baseball. The
St. Louis management, disgusted by the turn
of events, pulled out of the league and the city
56 " Commy. "
was not again represented in the parent organ-
ization until 1885.
The St. Louis owners were made the victims
of circumstances over which they had no control,
but the fiasco put baseball out of joint in the
Missouri metropolis for a time, and it was not
until 1879 that the game began to show signs of
life. Then a number of business men and fans
combined to organize a team which was chris-
tened the Browns.
The elimination of St. Louis from the pro-
fessional circuit in 1878, as has been recorded,
paved the way for a new league and, when the
American Association was organized in the win-
ter of 1881, after a western tour of the Athletics
of Philadelphia during the preceding summer,
the city became a member and remained one for
an even decade. During nine of these years
Charles A. Comiskey wore the brick-red socks
and drew his salary from Christopher Von der
Ahe, who was the principal promoter of the
Association and the original and only " boss
president " of the Browns.
In Von der Ahe the game produced the most
unique character that the sport has seen since
its formation, and the St. Louis summer garden
proprietor is deserving of more than a passing
notice before we continue the story of the man
" Der Boss President " 57
who more than anyone else contributed to his
sporting and financial success.
Baseball did not originally mean much to
Von der Ahe. The waiter in a white apron,
who could pick his way with the biggest tray
of steins between the round tables under the
trees adjacent to the ball park, cut as much
figure with him as the mightiest home run
clouter on his team. One department of his
business was as important as the other as long
as the coin jingled in the cash box, but with
the onward march of the Browns came a change
and Von der Ahe, almost over night, became the
most powerful and enthusiastic baseball mag-
nate in the country. The summer garden and
grocery store were forgotten as pennant fol-
lowed pennant on the flag pole.
Borne on the wave of affluence and popularity
by the champion Browns he reached the pinnacle
of his fame in the period between 1884 and 1889.
Having attained the peak the Brotherhood revolt
burst, and the fortune he had amassed was dis-
sipated as speedily as it had been accumulated.
The friends of his more prosperous days dis-
appeared as the contents of his purse diminished,
but it is known to a few that the man to whom
he offered a salary of $90 a month in his first
baseball venture helped materially to ease his
58 " Commy "
declining days. Of the many who had profited
by his largess in the more prosperous days the
" Old Eoman " was one of the few who stuck to
him as a friend to the end. Shortly before he
died Chris willed his benefactor the only thing
that escaped his creditors a solid silver statue
of a ball player in action, presented to the
Browns by Erastus Wyman. This work of the
silversmith's art has now an honored place in
Comiskey's private office.
Von der Ahe, being too busy in counting and
spending the proceeds to give much heed to the
game, had the good judgment, early in his
career as a baseball magnate, to leave the
technical side to others, and from 1884 on it
devolved on Comiskey, as captain and manager,
to look after the destinies of the Browns, off and
on the field.
To outsiders and to the newspaper men Von
der Ahe wanted to be known as a real baseball
man, a weakness of his which served mostly to
furnish the sporting writers with copy for the
humorous column. The genius and diplomacy
of his manager, and the latter 's faculty of
acquiescing in everything that Von der Ahe sug-
gested and then doing the opposite, had a tend-
ency to blunt the barbed shafts directed against
" der boss president.'*
" Der Boss President " 59
Von der Ahe's limited knowledge of the game
was never better illustrated than when on a
certain occasion he insisted on describing the
beauties of his baseball plant to some visiting
" Some plant, eh? " said the guileless Chris
to his visitors as his chest expanded. " I have
the biggest diamond in the world, and "
" Chris, all diamonds are the same size,"
whispered Comiskey in his ear.
" I mean, gentlemen, the Browns are playing
on the biggest infield in the world," promptly
corrected the owner.
The dialectic ornaments to Chris's speech have
been omitted, as I have yet to hear anyone
approximate a real imitation of his inimitable
His knowledge of the fine points of the game
was as limited as his vocabulary after a losing
contest was extensive.
" Them visitors have a punk man in right
field," he would inform Comiskey after the heat
of the combat was over. " Now, for to-morrow,
tell the boys to hit all balls into right. ' '
" Sure, Chris, that was the place to put them,
but the boys wouldn't do as I told them," would
be the mollifying response of his manager.
" Well, I'll fine every mother's son a month's
salary, who double-crosses you, Charlie," would
be the comforting assurance of " der boss."
Fining his players was the great indoor sport
of Chris. He fined them individually and in
platoons. He would sit on the roof of the stand
among his directors, and plaster on fines until the
pay roll was exhausted.
11 Ach, you Gleason, that will cost you a hun-
dred, ' ' he would remark as a ball would go scoot-
ing through the infield twenty feet from the short
" But, Chris, he wasn't even near the ball,"
someone would interject.
* ' But why wasn't he in front of it? " spluttered
Chris, and that would wind up that argument.
Arlie Latham, third baseman on the team, who
during the late war contributed his bit by coach-
ing Uncle Sam's ball teams in the base camps in
England, was always a thorn in the side of Chris.
Latham was the clown of the team and was always
making life miserable for " der boss." As a con-
sequence he was probably fined oftener than any
other member of the team, although Gleason had
to share part of the burden. At the many
" stated" meetings, which the president insisted
on holding in his office there would come a snort
"I don't know who it was, but Gleason, you
" Der Boss President " 61
look guilty and it will cost you a hundred," blus-
11 But, honest, Chris, I never made a sound,'*
pleaded the innocent Bill. " I couldn't, I was
just taking a chew."
" Well, maybe it wasn't you, but you are fined
fifty for making a pig pen of the office, and,"
with another outburst from some corner of the
room, " the hundred goes for you, Arlie," and
the meeting would be adjourned.
The irrepressible Latham having one day vio-
lated Von der Ahe's code of ethics was promptly
soaked $100. Apparently crestfallen, Arlie, an
hour later, met his boss in front of the bar.
" Now, Chris, that fine really doesn't go, does
it? " asked the penitent third sacker.
Chris, seeing the contrite expression, admitted
it probably had been a little stiff and said he
would knock off $50.
" Great," said the player, slapping the presi-
dent on the back. " I knew you would do that>
and Chris, if you will let me have $50 it will make
" Sure," assented Von der Ahe, and Arlie had
a new story for the boys in the club house.
" But you are out $50," suggested Comiskey,
when the president told how he had remitted part
of the fine. This fact having percolated through
62 " Commy "
his cranium, Chris, with a great show of indigna-
tion, promised that he would make it $150 next
As a matter of fact fines never worried the boys
as the majority were always a jump or two ahead
when payday came. Should anyone suffer a lapse
and have enough money coming to cover the fine?
the manager usually persuaded Chris to tack on a
bonus for some imaginary good piece of work dur-
ing the month, which would more than cover the
An even temperament was not characteristic of
Chris. It was either sunshine or darkness, with
never a trace of twilight in his makeup. It was
everything or nothing. He was a gambler by in-
stinct, if not in practice.
A. G. Spalding and A. C. Anson discovered this
before the world's series games between the
Browns and the White Stockings in 1886.
" Play you winner take all or no series," was
the ultimatum from Chicago.
' ' What do you think about it, Charlie f ' ' asked
Chris of his manager.
" Nothing would suit the boys and myself bet-
ter," answered " Commy."
Comiskey's team won the series, as later related
In the way of expenses, especially when the out-
" Der Boss President " 63
lay promised some return in the spectacular, noth-
ing feazed Von der Ahe in those halcyon days.
His great team had proved a gold mine year after
year and though he boosted the salary of his man-
ager from $90 a month to $8,000 a year, and some
of the other players in proportion, the receipts so
far exceeded his expenses that he was hard put
to circulate the money. He built a row of apart-
ment houses and named them after his star play-
ers. It was surmised by some that when the
buildings ceased to be a paying proposition he
took a dislike to five of his stars and sold them to
make up the difference.
In order to get rid of his surplus cash after the
season of 1888, and after " Charlie " had won
the fourth successive pennant for him, he decided
on a special train from St. Louis to New York,
whither he was bound for a world's series with
the Giants. He wrote from Cincinnati, where the
team was playing, to arrange .for it, accommoda-
tion to include everything the railroad could offer
to his players and guests. The total staggered
his secretary, Al Spink, who reported that it
would cost $20,000. Chris wired back: " What
of it? "
The train was delivered and rolled into New
York to the wonder of the natives. Chris paid
the bills, railroad as well as hotel, but that was
not enough. " Der boss president " wanted to
break into print with a new one, so after the
second game of the series, which the Browns won,
he sent word to each of his players and guests to
order a suit of clothes and send the bill to him.
He was accommodated and it was figured that the
trip to New York cost Von der Ahe approximately
It was this type of man with whom Charles
Comiskey linked his fortune in 1882, the first year
of the American Association a league which
almost entirely centered around Comiskey 's four-
time champions. Al Spink, among others, had
watched the wiry youth at first base at the exhibi-
tion games between the Kabbits and the Browns,
and during the winter following Spink wrote
Comiskey offering the latter a job with the
11 Am I fast enough for that company? " he
queried of Sullivan.
" You are too speedy for me," retorted Ted,
and ' ' Commy ' ' went.
A year later the player returned the compli-
ment by persuading Von der Ahe to engage Sul-
livan as manager, pointing out that with Ted
as leader there would be only one boss. The
prediction came true, and as soon as Chris thought
there was room for two, the pair split, which hap-
The Old Roman ready for a hike in
the northern woods (1917).
" Der Boss President " 65
pened towards the fag end of the 1883 season.
In the meantime, however, Sullivan had suc-
ceeded in getting together a team, which with
additions made by Comiskey later, became the
wonder of the baseball world.
Calculating his increased earning as sufficient
for housekeeping Comiskey took another impor-
tant step in 1882, by marrying Miss Nan Kelly,
of Dubuque. The two had been engaged for
almost three years, but " Commy " wanted to
get settled before he led his bride to the altar.
It would be a better story were a little baseball
romance woven into the first meeting between
the two lovers but it must be recorded, for the
sake of truth, that there was nothing of the kind.
It was only after the newlyweds had moved to
St. Louis that Mrs. Comiskey became a fan and
a mascot. Years afterwards her husband said:
11 1 wouldn't know what to do were my wife
not to start out with the team on every training
trip. She is as much a part of the club as I am
and she is the closest pal I ever had."
Two children resulted from the union, one of
whom, a boy, died in infancy. The other, Lou,
who is known to every fan, is the treasurer of the
White Sox Club. He was born in 1885.
Comiskey and Von der Ahe got along famously,
even though Chris found it impossible to travel
66 " Commy "
iu the same harness with anyone else for any
length of time. The reason may be found in the
fact that Comiskey never paid the slightest atten-
tion to the frequent outbursts of the boss but,
penetrating the rough exterior, early discovered
a heart as big as that of an ox. On top of this
he played the game on the square with Chris,
which the latter was quick to acknowledge, and
the mercurial magnate boasted to his friends that
Charlie never worried him with any tricks, which
to the sorely harassed executive meant a lot.
The team which took the field in 1882, with
Ed Cuthbert as manager, had some good players
in its lineup but it did not compare with those
which followed. Before the regular season
opened in the spring exhibition games were
played, and here is the box score of the first
game in which Comiskey appeared in a St. Louis
BROWNS AB R BH PO A E
W. Gleason, ss 5 1
Walker, cf 4 1 1
Comiskey, Ib 4 1 1 11
Davis, 3b 4 1 1 1 2
Smiley, 2b 400130
Seward, c 4 13 3
McGinnis, p 4 2 1
Cuthbert, If 4 2 1
Shappert, rf 4 1
Totals . 37 2 7 27 5 7
" Der Boss President " 67
STANDARDS AB R BH PO A E
Morgan, 3b 4 1 1 2
Simpson, 2b 4 1 2
Decker, cf 4 1 1 2 1 3
Cunningham, If 4 8 1
Wagner, ss 402340
Croft, Ib 3 5 2
Hogan, p 3 1 10
Dillon, rf 3 1 1 1
Houtz, c 3 3
Totals 32 4 5 27 18 3
Browns 2 02
Standards 10 2 1 04
Total bases Browns, 8; Standards, 3. Umpire Dave Ring.
Comiskey's first appearance against the
Browns, like his first game with them, was a
defeat, but the rough spots had been smoothed a
week later and the Browns walloped the life out
of the Standards.
The American Association made its big organiz-
ing campaign on the platform of 25-cent ball,
instead of 50 cents, which was charged in the
National League. The price cutting, although
popular in St. Louis, proved a mistake from a
financial viewpoint elsewhere, but the venture
was a bonanza for Von der Ahe almost from the
start, and the following year Ted Sullivan was
given the task of organizing a winner.
68 " Commy "
The two-bit experiment in 1882 was not for-
gotten by Comiskey, and when he came to Chi-
cago and was taken to task by his fellow mag-
nates for his encouragement of 25-cent ball, he
replied that as long as he controlled his own team
the bleacher patrons would have an equal show
with the grand stand spectators. Consequently
the " uncovered " accommodations at the South
Side Park in Chicago approximate 25 per cent
of the whole by far the largest in the league.
" It doesn't bring in quite as much money at
the gate as the more expensive seats but it gives
a greater number a chance to see my team and
that is the big thing with me," Comiskey said
in answer to the criticism.
The team which Sullivan handed to Von der
Ahe for the 1883 season, after the Browns had
finished fifth in a six-club league in 1882, con-
sisted of the following:
Tom Deasley, Tom Dolan and Tom Sullivan,
catchers; Tony Mullane, Charles Hodnett, George
McGinnis and Henry Oberbeck, pitchers; Charles
Comiskey, first base; George Strief, second base;
Walter A. Latham, third base; William Gleason,
short stop; Eddie Cuthbert, left field; Oberbeck
or Mullane, center field; Hugh Nicol, right field.
Sullivan, as manager, parted company with Von
der Ahe before the season was over and in the
" Der Boss President " 69
following year took over the management of the
St. Louis Union League club, which only lasted
out the season.
Jimmy Williams succeeded Ted Sullivan and
hung on until the middle of the 1884 season,
when, after another one of his outbursts, Chris
found himself without a leader. In this dilemma
Von der Ahe turned to the twenty-five-year-old
youngster from Chicago, who was still lean and
possibly inexperienced, but with a head full of
new ideas as to how the game should be played.
It was a leap in the dark for the first sacker, but
he promised Chris that he would try, and from
that day to the winter of 1901 he held the man-
The Browns of 1883 had come within one game
of landing the pennant, and now with Comiskey
in full charge things began to hum, although,
perhaps due to a bad start, the team was unable
to do better than fourth in a twelve club league.
The team finished 74 points behind the champion
Metropolitans of New York. It was made up of
the following players:
Tom Deasley and Tom Dolan, catchers ; William
Widmer and George McGinnis, pitchers; Charles
Comiskey, first base ; George Strief and Joe Quest,
second; Walter A. Latham, third; William Glea-
son, short stop; J. E. (Tip) O'Neill, left field;
70 " Commy "
Fred Lewis and Harry Wheeler, center; Hugh
Comiskey had, at the start of his league career,
shown a number of new wrinkles to American
Association fans. Up to his advent it had been
the custom of the first baseman to glue himself
to the bag. Comiskey cut loose from the sack,
edging out in the territory towards right field.
He taught the pitcher how to cover first base
in an emergency, although he was one of the few
basemen who relieved the twirler of much of this
work. The innovation did not look natural to many
of the old timers, but in a comparatively short
time every first sacker had moved out. Comis-
key 's next logical move was to shift the whole
infield, in or out, as occasions demanded.
The pastime began to have a new meaning to
the fans with the disappearance of the motionless
first baseman and with the mobile infield. The
Browns were hailed as missionaries of a new
game and they soon had the reputation of being
the speediest combination in the country. Given
speed, pitching and head work Comiskey figured
he had the world beaten. He went along on this
theory and won four championships in a row.
Batting was not underrated but, although he
had his share of sluggers on the Browns, Comis-
key did not consider stick work the most impor-
" Der Boss President " 71
tant feature except as it synchronized with, other
departments of the game. Years later in 1906
this was again demonstrated when the White Sox,
the "hitless wonders," won the World's Cham-
pionship after having captured the American
League pennant on a minimum of batting.
Comiskey himself was not a heavy hitter but
he had a knack of worrying the pitcher and his
.250 or .275 batting average for the season meant
more to his team than the ordinary .300 percent-
age. When once on the bases the troubles of the
opponents began. Never a trick escaped him and
he rapidly became a terror as a base runner. That
he stole 62 bases in 1887 and 77 in 1888 showed
how well he could control his feet.
The leader of the Browns was speedy but he
was far from being a Sheffield Handicap man.
There were many who could beat him in a sprint,
but few who could get more out of base-running
than he. Given an even break in sliding into a
base, nine times out of ten he gained the decision,
the fielders usually making a stab at the shadow
instead of the substance, and this despite the
fact that they had a mark of over six feet to
On the next page is shown Comiskey 's bat-
ting and fielding records for the time he served
in the major leagues, " pinch hitting " giving him
72 " Commy "
Year, Club and League.
1882 St. Louis
1883 St. Louis
1884 St. Louis
1885 St. Louis
1886 St. Louis
1887 St. Louis
1888 St. Louis
1889 St. Louis
1890 Chicago P. L
1891 St. Louis
Totals for 13
Year, Club and League.
1882 St. Louis
1883 St. Louis
1884 St. Louis
1885 St. Louis
1886 St. Louis
1887 St. Louis
1888 St. Louis
1889 St. Louis
1890 Chicago P. L
1891 St. Louis
, , 59
Totals for 13 years 1,338 13,504 499 359 .973
" Der Boss President " 73
a slightly higher total in the number of games
played as a batter.
From the figures it will be seen that he batted
above the .300 mark but once in his major league
career 1887 when he finished the season with
an average of .368. In fielding he reached .983 in
his first year at Cincinnati, where he played in
every one of the 140 games scheduled.
Comiskey's career as a player, captain, man-
ager and owner is shown at a glance by the follow-
1875-1898 Player pitcher and fielder.
1883-89 Captain and first baseman of the St.
1884-89 Manager of the St. Louis Browns.
1890 Captain and manager of the Chicago
1891 Captain and manager St. Louis
1892-94 Manager Cincinnati National League
1895-99 Owner and manager St. Paul Western
1900 Owner and manager Chicago White
1901 Owner Chicago White Sox.
74 " Commy "
The new ideas advanced by Comiskey have
been frequently exploited by chroniclers from the
time he began, but little has been recorded about
the flaws he discovered. Bill Gleason, his team-
mate, thinks he was responsible for half the
changes in playing methods. Among others he is
held responsible for the coaching box and the
double umpire system. James A. Hart, former
president of the Cubs, related to the writer several
years ago the reason for the barriers at first and
" The chalk lines which enclose the coaching
boxes were added to the field diagram after
Charles Comiskey had demonstrated their neces-
sity," he said. " Comiskey and Bill Gleason used
to plant themselves on each side of the visiting
catcher and comment on his breeding, personal
habits, skill as a receiver, or rather lack of it,
until the unlucky backstop was unable to tell
whether one or half a dozen balls were coming his
way. Not infrequently the umpire came in for a
" ' He's a sweet bird, isn't he, Bill? ' Comis-
key would chirp.
" 'Never heard of him before, did you,
Commy? ' would be the dulcet reply of Gleason.
" ' The cat must have brought him in and put
him in the keeping of the umpire or else how
" Der Boss President " 75
could he last more than an inning? ' and so to
the end of the chapter.
" This solicitous attention did not add to the
efficiency of the backstop, so for the sake of not
unduly increasing the population of the insane
asylums or encouraging justifiable homicide, the
coacher's box was invented. This helped out the
catcher, but the pitcher and other players on the
opposing team, were still at the mercy of Comis-
key, and I know of no man who had a sharper
tongue, who was in command of more biting sar-
casm, or who was quicker at repartee."
Comiskey 's ' * deadly ' ' coaching centered in the
fact that he was playing the game every minute.
After a contest had been lost he could stretch and
forget it, but he never permitted anyone to lose
sight of the fact that he was on the field to win.
In later years he carried a similar spirit with him
to the grand stand, and as for the bench old
timers recount with glee his antics in the ' ' coop. ' '
" If I could find the time I would wish for no
better vacation than to travel with Comiskey
and sit with him on the bench, ' ' said the late John
T. Brush. " If I also could have a shorthand
writer with me I would be fixed for entertainment
for the winter. No man could put more in a sen-
tence than Charles Comiskey."
His nervousness on the bench was often taken
76 " Commy "
advantage of by his men. It was usually his habit
to unconsciously glide from one end of the bench
to the other during a game, or even during an
inning. Frank Isbell. who aided materially in
winning the first World's Championship for the
White Sox, and who originally broke into the
game with Comiskey in the Western League, is
credited with having driven a nail from the under
side of the board at St. Paul. The point was ele-
vated just high enough to become rasping with-
out being conspicuous, although the rest of the
players were " next."
The fact that Comiskey was in civilian clothes
added to the zest of the undertaking. In due
time came the tight inning and the rapid shifting
of the boss. The hit that tied it up produced
unwonted action. Commy slid over the obstruc-
tion but he did not discover until after the game
was over that his trousers were bifurcated later-
ally as well as longitudinally.
A $15,000 SLIDE
Comiskcy starts organizing his four-time winners
Establishes a monopoly in pennants Praise for
Ted Sullivan He never forgets Browns and
Anson's White Stockings compared How
' ' Commy 's ' ' first world 's title was won Broadway
lights Browns' undoing.
Pretzels and ball players, being of equal impor-
tance to Von der Ahe, it devolved on his manager
to organize for the campaigns which culminated
in Curt Welch's $15,000 slide and a world's cham-
pionship in '86. Comiskey started out by adding
William Widmer to his 1884 pitching staff, Joe
Quest to his infield, Fred Lewis, Harry Wheeler
and the greatest of sluggers, Tip O'Neill, to his
outfield. Those discarded were Tom Sullivan,
Tony Mullane, Charles Hodnett, Henry Oberbeck
and Eddie Cuthbert.
Before the season was over Comiskey discovered
that he did not have a real pennant contender and
during the winter came the final rounding out of
the " four-time winners," the pride of Missouri.
Here they are :
78 " Commy "
Caruthers and Foutz, pitchers; Bushong,
catcher; Comiskey, first base; Robinson, second
base; Latham, third base; Gleason, short stop;
'Neill, left field ; Welch, center field ; Nicol, right
This was the regular lineup of the Browns. A
few utility players figured during succeeding
years but the team was known as a ten-man com-
bination, and the changes for three seasons were
inconsequential. Hudson was added to the pitch-
ing staff in 1886, while ' ' Silver ' ' King and Boyle
were signed in 1887.
Von der Ahe 's brainstorm wrecked the wonder-
ful combination during the winter of 1887, Foutz,
Caruthers and Bushong being sold to the Brook-
lyn American Association team and Bill Gleason
and Curt Welch to the Philadelphia Athletics.
Nothing brought out Comiskey 's genius for
leadership as the campaign of 1888, and it is doubt-
ful if such a feat has ever been equaled in the
annals of baseball as he performed that year.
Five of his greatest players over one-half of his
regular lineup had been transferred to other
teams in his own league.
Few of the baseball wiseacres expected the
Browns to do much better than last, and Von der
Ahe, from having been one of the most popular
men in St. Louis, found it convenient to keep out
A $15,000 Slide 79
of the sight of the enraged followers of the cham-
Despite the terrific handicap Comiskey did his
best to mollify the fans, although his friends
tried to persuade him to sever his connection
with Von der Ahe. He started out at a fair pace
and finished the season like a whirlwind, in first
place, with this team:
King, Hudson, Chamberlin and Devlin, pitch-
ers; Boyle and Milligan, catchers; Comiskey, first
base; Eobinson, second; Latham, third; White,
short stop; O'Neill, left field; Lyons, center; Mc-
Brooklyn, which had profited by the trade for
Foutz, Caruthers and Bushong, finished in sec-
ond place, 52 points behind the winners, while
the Athletics, who had been strengthened by the
acquisition of Gleason and Welch, beat out Cin-
cinnati for third place.
The next year the race simmered down to a
contest between the Browns and Brooklyn, into
which the personal element largely entered.
Toward the close of the season two games, for-
feited by the Browns to Brooklyn, came near
breaking up the league, as the Board of Directors
in a special meeting upheld the action of Comis-
key in withdrawing from the field in one game
and refusing to take his chances against the Flat-
80 " Commy "
bush rowdies on the Sabbath, in another. Brook-
lyn won but the Browns were behind only two
games at the finish with this team:
Jack Boyle and John Milligan, catchers; Jack
Stivetts and Silver King, pitchers; Comiskey.
first base; William Robinson, second; "W.
(Shorty) Fuller, short stop; Arlie Latham, third;
Tip O'Neill, left field; Eddie Duffie, center;
Tommy McCarthy, right; Henry Lyons, utility
With the end of the '89 season Comiskey 's
career in St. Louis practically came to a close,
although he returned in 1891, after the Brother-
hood war, for one season. The final drive for an
Association pennant saw the Browns in second
place as low, with one exception, as Comiskey
ever fell in the Association while manager. His
nature, though, rebelled against figuring worse
than first. It was while a number of his friends
congratulated him over the fact that the White
Sox had finished as well as second in 1916 the
" Old Roman " gave voice to this aphorism:
1 1 First place is the only subject of conversation.
Everybody chokes up before they get as far aa
After Boston had been awarded the pennant it
was curtains for the American Association. It
had so fallen upon evil days that its demise was
A $15,000 Slide 81
almost painless, except to those who were unfor-
tunate enough to hold the bag. The National
League, as a twelve-club organization, swallowed
up some of the Association franchises. Among the
new members in the parent body was Chris Von
der Ahe, who stuck as " der boss president "
until 1898. History has dealt fairly with both
owner and manager but it is doubtful if the name
of Chris Von der Ahe ever would have figured in
major league baseball if he had had any other
leader for his team than Charles Comiskey. With-
out the latter there probably would have been no
championships and with no title holders to draw
the fans, there could have been no chance for
* ' der boss ' ' to make a splurge.
Comiskey has never been loquacious in discuss-
ing the responsibility for getting the Browns
together except to credit Ted Sullivan with the
major part of it. He permitted Von der Ahe to
share in the honors, although it is well known that
the functions of the latter consisted in supplying
the cash, which others had earned for him. As a
matter of fact Von der Ahe received more for
players than he paid although his liberality with
the men personally often swung the scales in
Comiskey 's favor.
It was a good team which Sullivan put together
in 1883, but for the sake of the reputation of
82 " Commy "
others it should be pointed out that it was not the
combination which won the title for St. Louis later
on. Some few cogs were missing at the start.
Robinson, Welch, O'Neill, Bushong, Caruthers
and Foutz were not on hand when Comiskey took
the reins in 1884. Comiskey dismisses the subject
with the remark:
' ' I think Ted found most of them. ' '
Sullivan admits that he did some scouting for
the Browns after he quit as manager but the fact
remains that it was up to Comiskey to pass on
them regardless of who picked them out. What
was even more important, it was up to him to mold
them into that frictionless machine which steam-
rolled its way to four pennants.
As far as the playing end was concerned there
was only one boss during the seven out of nine
years and Comiskey was u it. " The campaigns
league, world 's or merely exhibition tours were
all thought out by him. He never went to bed
without figuring out a plan of strategy for the
following day and he held himself responsible for
the smallest detail, off and on the field. In this
his marvelous memory stood him in good stead.
Once heard, a thing was never forgotten. It is
deemed appropriate to digress for an excursion
into this phase of his personality.
I have rubbed elbows with people in most cor-:
A $15,000 Slide 83
ners of the globe but I have yet to meet a human
being with the retentive memory of Comiskey.
Eepeated demonstrations of that faculty have
been to me a constant source of wonderment for
Going through Memphis once on a spring trip
with the White Sox a stranger boarded the train,
inquiring for Mr. Comiskey. I directed him
towards the owner's stateroom, but on our way
down the aisle of the car we met the " Old
Roman. ' '
Not being endowed with " Commy's " gift, I
have forgotten the names of the characters which
figured in this little morning drama, but at any
rate the visitor and, we will call him Jim, made
a courtly bow, at the same time expressing his
pleasure at seeing the owner of the White Sox.
' * I was one of your admirers in the days of the
old Browns," he explained, " and hearing that
you were to pass through, I came down to shake
hands with you and wish you all the luck in the
world for the coming season."
Comiskey regarded the lanky caller for just a
moment, then reached out his hand.
" Well, Jim, how are you and how is Mrs.
, and, I suppose John and Mary have grown
up and are married by this time."
Having elaborated on the condition of the
84 " Commy "
family tree Jim departed and the train moved on.
" An old friend of yours? " I enquired.
" Sure, but for a moment I was embarrassed,
not being able to recall his name," came the
answer. " I didn't know his family very well
as I never met them but once."
There was an interval of twenty-two years
between the meetings.
This faculty came into daily use on the ball
field and it explained many of the phenomenal
feats exhibited by this master of the craft.
Once he had spotted a weak point in an oppos-
ing player he never forgot it though he might
not have occasion to put it to a test for years.
Thus it happened that an enthusiastic scout
rushed into the presence of Owner Comiskey
with the tale of a marvelous find.
" But he can't play the sun field."
" How do you know? " came the query.
" I saw him try it once," and the deal was off.
The ivory hunter then discovered that Comis-
key had seen the player in action several years
before on one of the spring exhibition trips
but he had never forgotten the man's failings.
It was so during his playing days. A new
opponent would plant himself at the plate,
backed by a big bat and a reputation as a
slugger. A signal from first base to the pitcher
A $15,000 Slide 83
and the newcomer would whiff on three high
ones close to the breast bone.
" How did you know what he was weak on,
Commy? " the puzzled Caruthers asked.
" Why, didn't I see him put a ball over the
fence on a low one on the outside a few years
ago up around Galena? I figured he didn't like
the insiders.' 7
It was the same all the way down the line.
Once a move was mirrored in ' ' Commy 's ' ' mind
he never lost it. Combine this with clear judg-
ment, the faculty of meeting emergencies on
the instant, without showing a trace of the " rat-
tles," and is it any wonder that championships
have trailed the " Old Eoman " through nearly
Many critics have insisted that, player for
player, the old Browns did not measure up to
Anson's heroic legion of 1885 and '86. Perhaps
they did not, but glance at the result of the two
series between the teams of Comiskey and Anson.
Anson's own opinion of his team is best given
in his book, " A Ball Player's Career," and this
is, in part, what he says :
The team that brought the pennant back
to Chicago in the year of 1885 and 1886 was,
in my estimation, not only the strongest
86 " Commy "
team that I ever had under my management
but, taken all in all, one of the strongest
teams that has ever been gotten together in
the history of the [National] League, the
position of left field, which was still being
played by Dalrymple, being its only weak
spot. * * * In its pitching department
it was second in strength to none of its
competitors and behind the bat were Flint
and Kelly, both of whom were widely and
The outfield was, to say the least, equal
to that of any other of the league clubs,
and the infield admittedly the strongest in
the country. This was the infield that
became famous as " Chicago's stone wall,"
that name being given to it for the reasons
that the only way that a ball could be gotten
through it was to bat it so high that it was
out of reach.
In order to refresh the memory of the reader
it might be well to recall that on this great team
Larry Corcoran, John Clarkson, James McCor-
mick and John Flynn were the pitchers; Mike
Kelly and Frank Flint, catchers; A. C. Anson,
Fred Pfeffer, Ed Williamson and Tom Burns,
made up the infield while Abner Dalrymple,
A $15,000 Slide 87
George Gore, Jimmy Ryan and Billy Sunday
and others cavorted in the outfield.
The best that this famous aggregation could
get was a draw with the Browns in '85, being
decisively beaten in '86. Physically, perhaps,
Anson's legion may have outclassed the Browns.
If they did, what about the 1882 White Stock-
ings, which Mike Kelly dubbed the greatest team
of all time? They were great, in Kelly's opin-
ion, mainly on account of the size of the play-
ers, whose heroic proportions were enough to
inspire fear in their opponents the minute they
marched across the field. Yet, regardless of a
difference of opinion Anson's Eighty-sixers
could be put down as " some " team.
It was recognized that in Clarkson and Kelly,
Anson had one of the best batteries that ever
swapped signals. He himself was a fine first
sacker and a mighty slugger. Then size up
the rest and permit them to mill around Ed
Williamson, in Anson's estimation the greatest
player that ever lived. Quite a bunch that, and
yet they were beaten when it came to a test.
In batting strength the White Stockings sur-
passed the Browns. In fielding there was not
much to chose, although, if there were an edge,
Chicago had it. In pitchers there were Caruth-
ers, Foutz and Hudson, against the redoubtable
88 " Commy "
Clarkson and McCormick, while as a receiver
Bushong had to practically hold his own against
the veterans Kelly and Flint. Then what
decided? We hazard the opinion that strategy
did it. Anson explains the 1886 series like
11 We were beaten, and fairly beaten, but had
some of the players taken as good care of them-
selves prior to these games as they were in the
habit of doing when the league season was in
full swing, I am inclined to believe that there
might have been a different tale to tell. ' '
Here is another comment on the Browns by
the leader of the Chicago team:
" The St. Louis Browns was a strong organi-
zation, a very strong one, and when we met
them in a series of games for what was styled
at the time the world's championship, in the
fall of 1885, they would have been able, in my
estimation, to have given any and all of the
[National] League clubs a race for the money."
The 1885 series had been a see-saw affair
with the base hits scattered between the Alle-
ghanies and the Mississippi River. The first
game, which was played in Chicago, was a tie.
Of the next three at St. Louis, Chicago took one
and the Browns two. Then followed a contest
at Pittsburgh, which was forfeited to Chicago
A $15,000 Slide 89
in six innings. The followers of the Browns
always claimed that it was a species of rob-
bery. Of the two games at Cincinnati, which
closed the series, each took one, the final result
being three apiece with one drawn.
As has already been mentioned, Spalding's
and Anson's suggestion for the 1886 series, of
the " winner to take all " was eagerly snapped
up by Comiskey. Chicago took the first tilt at
home, but after this game they rapidly faded,
but the bitterness exhibited set a record for
world's series games. It was the best four out
of seven and history insists that the series was
decided on a wild pitch by Clarkson. Such is
not in accordance with the facts, although its
proponents may prove their point through the
elastic interpretation of what constitutes a wild
heave. Comiskey was there, he was partially
responsible for the run, and got the ball that
Clarkson pitched, so he should know. He dic-
The score stood a tie at 3 to 3 in the
tenth inning with Curt Welch on third. His
own single, an error and an out had put
him on the far corner. In order to worry
Clarkson, who was pitching, Welch took a
long lead off third, too long in fact, for
90 " Commy "
which I was partially responsible as I was
coaching. On the first ball pitched Welch
was so far away from the bag that Mike
Kelly, who was catching, could have nailed
him easily. Bushong had let it go by with-
out offering to swing at it.
It was then that Welch showed his usual
brainwork. Curt figured that if he kept
at the same risky distance from the bag
Kelly would signal for a high ball on the
inside in order to have the advantage of
a quick throw to Burns. It turned out just
like that. Clarkson burned one by Bushong's
shirt and Kelly in his eagerness to get the
ball away to catch Welch slightly fumbled
it and it rolled about ten feet. Welch must
have divined the fumble, for he was off like
a flash towards the plate. Never in my life,
I believe, have I seen a man go as fast. He
seemed to skim over the ground.
No one knew better than Kelly what that
run would mean. Over $15,000 hinged on it.
If Welch made it, it would probably be the
day coach for manv of the White Stockings
as they had backed themselves well if not
wisely. If Kelly could get the ball on him
Chicago still had a chance, not only at the
game but at the series. If he lost the race,
A $15,000 Slide 91
all was over, as it would make the fourth
win for us.
As it actually happened Kelly never had a
chance, either to get the man or the ball.
As Welch slid into the plate I pounced on
the ball. Kelly was reaching for it, but I
beat him to it, as I was right on the heels
of Curt. That ball is still in my possession,
plated and boxed.
An interval of just twenty years was to elapse
before Comiskey would annex another world's
title. In the following year, after another pen-
nant had been flung to the breeze, the world's
series, through the insistance of the fans in
different parts of the country, and with the
ready acquiescence of Von der Ahe, became a
barn storming tour, Detroit winning after the
teams had exhibited in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn,
New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington,
Baltimore and Chicago, besides their own home
towns. The series earned more coin than glory
In 1888, with the fourth and last title for St.
Louis, the Browns were beaten by the New
York Giants in a memorable series, 6 games to
4, the pitching of Tim Keefe for the Giants
being the feature, this sterling hurler winning
92 " Commy "
every start and he pitched four out of the ten
Von der Ahe's " special," with the attendant
embellishments, probably had something to do
with the defeat as even the strict disciplinary
measures of the manager failed to keep the boys
in check as long as the president insisted on
paying all the bills, regardless of what was
ordered from the menu.
COMING OF THE SUPERMEN
Giants of former days Comiskey's own story of
the Browns Explains why they won four pen-
nants Hard to keep them on the bench "Kid"
Gleason 's reminiscences of the ' ' Old Roman ' '
Others pass judgment on "Commy."
The era in which the Browns figured was
a period equally divided between romance and
cold-blooded deals. Men cheerfully went broke
for an ideal while others did everything but
commit murder for the sake of a dollar. It was
the luck of the game that the ideal predom-
inated and thus the sportsmanlike development
of baseball overshadowed the financial. After
the Civil War decade the game, like the coun-
try as a whole, was largely in the maldng for
a few years. Shift followed shift, rules were
changed overnight, and the sport generally took
on a new complexion. Then, as it happened
and who shall explain it?: a race of supermen
came to the front in baseball. Brawn and muscle
were combined with gray matter to an extent
94 " Commy "
unknown in these latter days. Genius and the
slugger worked hand in hand in perfecting the
pastime so that little was left to the highly
mechanical artists of today.
The type of men engaged made it a red-
blooded sport, and less time was spent in sizing up
the " house " and figuring on next year's con-
tract than is the case these days. It was a
knockdown and drag-out on the field with few
holds barred. No one asked for quarter and
the game was never lost until the last man was
out. A split finger, a lacerated leg or even a
broken bone was not considered a passport to
the hospital. Nothing short of crutches kept
a man out of his position and marriage or death
alone were considered of sufficient importance to
warrant absence from the field.
It is not the intention to single out the Browns
and their leader to represent all that was great
baseball in those days, as there were other giants
abroad, but the St. Louis combination will, at
least, serve as the main text. In the Hall of
Fame which contained the old Chicago White
Stockings, the famed Detroits, the Providence
Grays, the herculean New Yorks and others of
little less renown, the Browns size up pretty
well. Comiskey, who has managed many a team
since the days of the four-time winners, finds
Coming of the Supermen 95
an actual comparison with modern teams more
or less an impossibility, mainly due to the dif-
ference in rules. He dictated the following:
I would not be on the level did I not
confess that I always have believed that the
old Browns were a great team, one of the
greatest ever organized. In brains and
punch they would measure up to the stand-
ard of any team today, both individually
and as a combination, but there is no pos-
sible way to judge their effectiveness on a
diamond today under modern rules.
Before the Browns went out of existence
the rules were perfected as they are found
to-day but during the greater part of
their existence the game was conducted
under a code that radically differed from
the modern style of play. The principal
changes centered around the pitcher and there
is no way of proving how Radbourne,
Sweeney, Foutz, Caruthers, Spalding and
others would have behaved at the present dis-
tance and under the restrictions which govern
the pitcher of to-day. Nor is it possible
to judge how the Cicottes, Johnsons, Alex-
anders and Ruths would have fared had they
been compelled to pitch instead of throwing
96 " Commy "
or had they been permitted to employ the
hop, step and jump, for instance.
It is true that many of the star pitchers,
under the old rules, overlapped into the
next era, but it is not on record that any
of the old-timers shone to any great extent.
Many have argued that this proved con-
clusively that the twirlers of the Eighties
were not as effective as those of the Nine-
ties. Not at all. The effectiveness was lost,
partly because they had seen their best days
and partly because it is hard for an old dog
to learn new tricks.
I had some great pitchers while in St.
Louis. At first they only " pitched " the
ball fifty feet. They had an allowance of
six bases on balls which was neutralized
to some extent by four strikes. Later on
the ' ' throw ' became a free-for-all, over-
hand or any style the pitcher chose. With
the change in the throw also came the
added freedom in the box and a Hop, step
and jump was in order in 1886 with the
pitcher's box seven feet long and four feet
wide. Originally the pitcher was handi-
capped by the privilege of the batsman in
calling for a " high " or a " low " ball and
no one to-day has any idea what that meant.
Coming of the Supermen 97
In 1887 the pitcher was chained down prac-
tically to what he is today except as to dis-
tance which was not lengthened until 1893.
The four strike rule was changed back to
three in 1888. Giving the batter a hit
when he was sent to first on bases on balls
was also done away with.
Taking into consideration the different
conditions which prevailed then it would not
be fair actually to compare players of thirty
and forty years ago with those of to-day.
The human element alone should figure and
taking this into consideration I do not have
to apologize for the old Browns. They were
composed of the greatest bunch of fighters
which were ever brought together, and as
for gameness they were surpassed by none.
It might be mentioned that our real lineup
during the most successful seasons was
boiled down to ten or eleven men. Minor
hurts were never taken into consideration
and it would have to be broken bones to
keep anyone out. As everybody on the team
wanted to be in the game every day I had
to use some diplomacy in getting the extra
man or two to stick to the bench now and
then. The pitcher who hurled an extra
inning game one day would feel aggrieved if
98 " Commy "
he did not get a chance to repeat or to play
in the outfield the following day.
Such was the spirit of the men and in that
lay the secret of the four championships.
I would not seem to underrate the technical
skill of such men as Gleason, Welch, Foutz,
Caruthers, Bushong, Nichol, Hudson, Latham,
O'Neill, Robinson and others of those who
were with me. They were wonderful play-
ers and trained under modern conditions
would shine on any field. There was not
a slow thinker in the lot, in fact it took
some speed to keep up with the bunch in
The team from 1884 to the- close of 1887
had everything needed. It had speed on the
bases and in the field; it had enough slug-
gers to balance artistic fielding and before
it was broken up its team work was second
to none in the United States. It was not
overburdened with signals, as every member
was expected to know just what to do in an
emergency. The team at the start of the
Association played a different style of game
from most others. I have been given a
certain amount of credit for this, but regard-
less of that the team never was tied down
by precedent. It constantly blasted its way
Coming of the Supermen 99
along new roads and thus we got the credit
for being original.
One of our strong points might he called
the " open " game. The players were pulled
" in " or " out " as occasion demanded and
again we were praised for making the game
spectacular. No one to-day would notice such
departure as it would be considered part of
the game. The pastime, however, was in the
making and that is why the Browns cut such
a large swath. They were always trying,
not only to keep abreast of the times, but
to keep a step or two ahead, and this con-
ferred on us progressiveness. No player on
the team was ever taken in by the same trick
a second time and he would be considered
dull were he not to improve upon it, to the
disadvantage of him who originally played
it on him. Every player simply had to keep
his wits about him, for if he did not the
guying to which he would be subjected
would tend to wise him up.
There were " boners " pulled by players
in my younger days, but I hardly think that
they were as glaring as to-day. The dis-
grace was felt more keenly then than seems
to be the case at present. We didn't seem
to be able to stand the kidding which fol-
100 " Commy "
lowed a mistake as well as they do now.
Perhaps we were more thin-skinned and
thus saw to it that we didn't repeat.
Our record, especially in fielding, did
not look as artistic as that of some other
combinations, but that was because no one
was afraid to take chances. No one cared
for errors, not if he knew that he attempted
to make the play the right way. It was only
when he shirked the ball that his teammates
started to " ride " him, and I want to testify
to the effectiveness of their " riding." They
were wonders at it.
Looking back over the statistics I believe,
though, that the record in fielding was pretty
good after our machine got to going. Eob-
inson at second was as shifty as anyone in
those days, Gleason at short was a wonder
and Latham, although not the greatest third
baseman in the world, was no slouch at play-
ing the position, and he was valuable in
many other ways, especially base running.
The fans seemed to think that I did well
enough at first.
In the outfield I had one of the greatest
of all fly chasers and base runners in Curt
Welch, and one of the greatest sluggers in
the history of the game in Tip O'Neill. In
Coming of the Supermen 10 i
1887, I believe it was, he hit fo,r an average
of .492, the biggest percentage ever rung
up in the major leagues, but it must be
taken into consideration that in that year
bases on balls counted as hits. Still when
walks were not profitable Tip was there with
Hugh Nicol, Foutz and Caruthers took
turns in the outfield and were all handy men,
but one of the most valuable on the team
was Bushong, behind the bat. There was
one of the gamest catchers I ever saw, one
who never knew when he was beaten, or
hurt either, for that matter. Taking Into
account our base running, Welch's espe-
cially, and Bushong 's throwing we always
could worry the opposition both offensively
The men I have mentioned were with me
early in my career. Later on came Hud-
son, King, Chamberlin and Stivetts as pitch-
ers; Boyle and Milligan, catchers, and the
speedy McCarthy as an outfielder. I had
other shifty players towards the close, but
none who measured up to the original
I have been asked many times to com-
pare the Browns and Anson's White Stock-
102 " Commy "
ings of '85 and '86. Comparisons being
odious I hesitate to go into details. Anson
had a great team, one of the best I have
ever seen. He had men of brains and
originality in that outfit, men who could
field and hit the ball with the best in the
land. In Clarkson and Kelly he had one of
the greatest batteries of all times, and Anson
himself had demonstrated his right to lead
I also commanded a good team, I would
even call it great, but perhaps, witn not
quite as many outstanding stars as in the
Chicago aggregation. We met in '85 and
it was a draw a good many of the St. Louis
fans regarded it as a victory for us. Again
we clashed in 1886 and the Browns won
decisively. Anson in his own book has
passed judgment on his own team. I shall
let the series of 4 to 2 speak for mine.
Comiskey, it might be noticed, didn't say
much of his own connection in discussing the
Those who played with him or under him are
not so chary. Bill Gleason, the original " Kid,"
is one of the latter. When he heard that I con-
templated writing the life story of " Commy "
Coming of the Supermen 103
lie sent me the following and I give it as he
I am much pleased to hear you are writ-
ing a story about Comiskey as I have often
thought something of the kind would be
very interesting to his many admirers. He
and I were close friends in our younger
days. Of course now our paths lie far apart
but for nine years while we were with the
Browns we roomed together, both in hotels
and on the sleeping cars, and I have never
found a friend since whom I could so love
* * Commy ' ' was kind, generous and con-
siderate and a winner. He never went to
sleep at night until he had figured out
how he was going to win the game the next
day. As a player I consider him the best first
baseman of his day, quick to judge and
almost quicker to act. He played a deep
first base and, covering much territory, the
runners were kept busy watching him. He
was great at holding the runner at first and
the pitcher was saved a great deal of work,
as, with " Commy " on the bag, he seldom
had to leave the box.
I don't know if it is known that
104 " Commy "
li Commy " was the means of the umpire
judging the game from behind the pitcher.
This happened at Cincinnati with Bob Fer-
guson umpiring. He and Comiskey had an
argument, Charlie claiming that the ' * ump ' '
didn't see the play or else that he gave the
Browns the worst of the decision. Fergu-
son, in a temper, went behind the pitcher,
and, of course, could see all the bases better
from there. From that experiment grew the
double umpire system.
Even as a young man he was a first class
manager. Here is an illustration. In 1884
we were scheduled to play an exhibition
game in New Haven. Robinson, the second
baseman, failed to report, and " Commy '
had only eight men (they didn't carry a
coach-full of players then). He scoured the
town for a player to fill out, and finally
got an amateur whom he put into right field.
He picked the right one, as the stranger
was the means of winning the game in the
ninth inning by catching a fly ball with two
men gone, and it was a tough one at that.
Comiskey was the first man I ever saw
who slid head first to a base. He was a hard
worker and always set his men an example
of good team work, making sacrifice plays
Coming of the Supermen 105
and doing everything to win, but never
thinking of himself. He also knew how to
take a joke, as the following incident will
During the season of 1888, while playing
against the Brooklyns, we had our uniforms
drying at a sporting club called the Ath-
letics. During the night some members dis-
tributed about a bushel of red pepper, fill-
ing our knickers and shoes. They donated
about half a pound to " Pommy " and after
once on the field we only touched the high
spots. The weather was beastly warm, which
contributed to the speed of the Brownies,
who were up in the air most of the time,
but we got even by winning the game, 3 to 2.
" Commy " took the whole thing good-
naturedly, probably secretly rejoicing at the
pep displayed by the players.
There was always good discipline among
the Browns, but occasionally some of the boys
would take advantage of the manager. Comis-
key was particular about the boys being in
bed early but occasionally they played hookey.
Robinson, for instance, would ostentatiously
take his key from the rack and retire only to
slide down the fire escape. It was a lively
bunch with which ' * Commy ' ' had to contend,
106 " Commy "
but they all liked him and loved him as a
brother, as he was on the square with every-
Others of Comiskey's friends have contributed
their appreciation, all couched in a similar vein,
so apparently he was much the same in the red
pepper days as he is today.
A year ago John B. Sheridan, a veteran St.
Louis newspaperman, wrote this:
' * Charles Comiskey is the greatest baseball man
I have ever known. ' '
Mr. Sheridan has had an opportunity to know
them all, and as he has not always been eulogistic
of the " Old Roman," his opinion may be
regarded as impartial. He also knew him best in
the days of the four-time winners.
And this from the pen of Charles W. Murphy,
the man who ran a shoestring into a million, as
owner of the Chicago Cubs :
" In my judgment he (Comiskey) is far and
away the most famous figure ever connected with
baseball since its start as a public amusement.
But for him the rivalry between the National and
American leagues, which has been a wonderful
tonic for the sport, would never have been."
Murphy, who was a bitter rival of " Commy 's ' :
for years, could hardly be accused of writing the
Coming of the Supermen 107
above to ingratiate himself, either with the " Old
Roman " or with the newspaper for which he
It has been the fixed purpose of the author from
the first to permit the acts of " Commy " to pro-
nounce their own eulogy and this shall be adhered
to, yet the diversion above would serve as an
alibi, if any are needed, for the superlatives, which
have been used in commenting on his connection
with the Browns. Comiskey has refrained in the
past from writing a line of autobiography, and it
is only by piecing together scraps of information
from different sources that his real worth as a
player and leader may be arrived at.
THE EEVOLT OF THE BKOTHERHOOD
Players and magnates lock horns and war follows
"Commy" parts company with Von der Ahe and
puts team in Chicago Big salary but no guar-
antee Mike Kelly, a blank contract and $10,000
Brotherhood backers stampeded Players' League
goes to smash.
With the close of the 1889 season came the
defection of the players and the virtual breaking
up of the American Association and the National
League. For Comiskey it meant the severing of
partnership with Von der Ahe and his removal
to his native city. The two became associated
again for one year but the close relationship which
had existed between them never was renewed even
though Comiskey later overlooked the many
slights the owner had put upon his manager from
The causes leading up to the revolt were similar
in character to those which had led to th.3 forma-
tion of the American Association, viz., the dicta-
torial and arbitrary attitude of the National
Revolt of the Brotherhood 109
League, a course repeated ten years later, and
which came near finishing the parent organiza-
tion. Territorial restrictions, a stifling of compe-
tition and general greed, had precipitated war
between the leagues. With the players, accord-
ing to their own manifesto, only the latter figured.
Led by John N. Ward, now an attorney in New
York, but in the early days a famous baseball
player, there had been organized in 1885 " The
National Brotherhood of Baseball Players, ' ' a fra-
ternal organization, the declared purpose of which
had to do with the individual players without
reference to the owners. In the same year, how-
ever, the magnates passed a rule limiting player's
salaries to $2,000 a year. When, after promises
had been made, the owners failed to repeal the
obnoxious limit, the dispute came to a head in the
winter of 1889. The facts of the case were that
the plan was elaborated on Spalding's trip around
the world, something which came near being
duplicated twenty-five years later on a similar
world tour. The difference was that players fig-
ured in the first while envious magnates were the
headliners in the second.
In a manifesto to the public the players
explained their reasons for their revolutionary
move. They made their principal attack on the
reserve clause, while the alleged bad faith of the
owners was not overlooked. The financial side and
the integrity of the sport were made as prominent
as possible with these words:
There was a time when the League
(National) stood for integrity and fair deal-
ing. To-day it stands for dollars and cents.
Once it looked to the elevation of the game
and an honest exhibition of the sport; to-day
its eyes are upon the turnstile. Men have come
into the business for no other motive than to
exploit it for every dollar in sight. Measures
intended for the good of the game have been
perverted into instruments for wrong.
This was answered in a lengthy counter-mani-
festo by the National League, the report being
signed by A. G. Spalding, John B, Day and John
I. Rogers, one of whom later proved the contention
they made, that it was possible to go broke in the
game. The telling argument in the answer was the
revelation that in the five years just preceding,
the eight club owners had drawn down only $150,-
000 in dividends while in that time the players
had received $1,500,000 in salaries.
Regardless of words the issue was joined
and the two organizations went into a clinch for
the country's baseball patronage in the spring of
1890. It is enough to draw attention to the fact
Revolt of the Brotherhood 111
that the Chicago National League club lost ten of
its most prominent players and New York twelve,
to show how hard hit were the different teams.
Anson, Burns and Hutchinson were the only ones
left on the Chicago team, the " Cap ' : being
deserted by Pfeffer, Dwyer, Tener, Bastian, Bart-
son, Darling, Farrell, Williamson, Ryan and Duffy.
The American Association was hit in equal pro-
portion to the National and none suffered harder
than Von der Ahe's club, which lost Comiskey,
O'Neill, Latham, Boyle and King, the majority
of whom went to make up the Chicago Brother-
hood team of which Comiskey became captain and
Ample backing was obtained for the Chicago
team and a fine ball park was built at the corner
of Wentworth avenue and 35th street. Twenty
years later the captain-manager of the one-year
team came into possession of the very grounds on
which he and his fellow seceders cavorted in 1890.
The imposing stand and other improvements of
the early days had then disappeared, but it is
likely that the cost of all would not have equaled
the outlay for the fence which surrounds Comis-
key Park of to-day.
The team which Comiskey was able to put into
the field consisted of himself at first base, Fred
Pfeffer at second, Charles Bastian and Ed Wil-
112 " Commy "
liamson at short, Arlie Latham at third, Jimmy
Byan, Hugh Duffy and Tip 'Neill in the outfield,
Charles Farrell catcher and third base, Silver
King, Mark Baldwin, Frank Dwyer and Charlie
Bartson, pitchers, and Jack Boyle, the star catcher.
With this team " Commy " was unable to finish
higher than fourth, which, better than anything
else, demonstrated the class of the revolutionary
cohorts. The Brotherhood teams wound up the
season in the following order: Boston, Brooklyn,
New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,
Cleveland and Buffalo.
The question has frequently been asked why
Comiskey quit the Browns when, to a man of his
far-seeing vision, the venture must have been
foredoomed to failure. His answer: " I couldn't
do anything else and be on the level with the
boys," admits of no argument. Comiskey had
nothing to gain and everything to lose through
the move. No one needed to write it down for
him. He knew it before he separated himself from
an assured $8,000 salary, which he was drawing
from Von der Ahe, to accept an equal amount
which, despite guarantees, might in the end turn
into stage money.
The decision to cast his lot with the players
came after he had been assured that he would be
with a team in Chicago. It had been his ambi-
FRANK WING, cartoonist on the staff of the St. Paul Dispatch, and
author of the well-known "The Fotygraft Album," is guilty of the
above addition to the Comiskey gallery. Says Frank:
This here's Charley Comiskey, th' baseball man, when he lived here
in St. Paul and managed th' Saints, as they call our team. Charley, he
ust t' hang 'round Nick Weiler's place, down th' street here a ways,
and play smear, ten cents a crack. He allus laid down a dollar, and
ef he lost it, he quit, but ef he won, he kep' goin'. And one time, why
Jim Donnelly, th' undertaker, he gits by th' police and drives his coffin
wagon onto th' ball grounds when th' Saints was a-losin', and sings
"Hello, there. Charley! How's tricks?"
Charley, he jist gives one look, then he calls a p'liceman over and
says t' him :
" Git that there stiff-cart off'm these grounds before she hoodoos us
fer keeps!" he says.
The p'liceman, he gives pore old Jim th' run; and would yuh believe
it? the Saints won th' game!
Revolt of the Brotherhood 113
tion, ever since he first chased the hall on the
prairies, to some day play on a regular team in
his native city. He wanted to be among his former
neighbors but fate decreed that another decade
should intervene before he would be permanently
" at home."
As is now history the Brotherhood program
proved a fiasco all along the line, but to Comiskey
the lesson was valuable. It became clear to him
before the season ended that co-operative baseball
was an impossibility and he kept this in mind and
profited accordingly. He early discovered that
player and promoter could not travel in the same
harness. As the former had at best only a hazy
idea of the financial end and the latter knew
little or nothing of the technical side, clashes were
bound to occur.
The players rightly argued that no one came
through the turnstiles for a glimpse of the mag-
nates. They themselves were the attraction, and
this attitude lent itself to an impaired vision
where the men on the field saw twice as many in
the grandstand as the turnstiles tabulated. To
them it was always a paying crowd, regardless of
the ' ' paper ' ' represented, and thus the suspicion
often got abroad that the capitalists " held out "
on them. Having for many years traveled with
baseball teams I can bear testimony to the fact
114 " Commy "
that this visual defect still afflicts our present day
heroes, and, it might be added, newspaper statis-
ticians and fans as well.
So, in 1890, the leader of the Chicago Brother-
hood team decided that in future only one vote
would be cast in any club that he was financially
interested in. He adhered to this principle, even
though the experiment in his minor league ven-
tures proved costly and left him with a flattened
pocketbook for his re-entry into Chicago.
It was not entirely the fault of the players that
the Brotherhood failed. The immediate reason for
the final breakup was the fact that some of the
most enthusiastic backers wouldn't stay hitched.
The New York and Brooklyn clubs, during the
winter of '90- '91, entered into negotiations with
the National League, a move which eventually had
the effect of causing all the rest of the clubs to
rush for cover.
The * ' selling out ' ' process completed, it became
theoretically a return to the ante-bellum status
with the National League and the American Asso-
ciation still working under the agreement formu-
lated in 1883. The players were to return to the
clubs from which they originally hailed, and in
1891 Comiskey again became the head of the St.
Hardly had the rival factions kissed and made
Revolt of the Brotherhood 115
up before war broke out anew. This time the
National League and the American Association
went into a clinch. The latter accused the for-
mer of bad faith in permitting the Pittsburgh
and Boston clubs respectively to sign Bierbauer
and Stovey. These players had originally been
on the reserve list of the Philadelphia Athletics
but, as it was claimed, had not appeared on the
roster as turned out at the time of reorganiza-
tion. After the Association had lost the case
on appeal to the joint governing board, it
announced the abrogation of the National Agree-
ment and there started a fight to the finish.
To the credit of the game it should be pointed
out that the players seldom lent themselves to
the machinations of the magnates. Almost sol-
idly they stood pat when it came to a question
of honor, as was proven time and again during
the reason. Few jumped from the Players '
League to organized baseball but in each case
wilful misrepresentation swayed them. How
blandishment failed to influence others is
related by A. G. Spalding himself, then at the
head of the National League war committee.
According to Mr. Spalding it was figured that
getting Mike Kelly back in the fold would be a
ten strike and so he was approached. A $10,000
check and a blank contract were laid before him.
The contract Spalding authorized Kelly to fill
in himself. If he accepted he was to leave that
night to joint the Boston Nationals.
" His face blanched, " writes Spalding in
" America's National Game."
" Does that mean that I am to join the
League? Quit the Brotherhood? Go back on
the boys? " queried Kelly.
" That's what it means," was the answer.
It must be remembered that Kelly always had
had the reputation of being chronically broke,
of continually depending on the club treasurer
for an advance and it was a big temptation to
" the King." He asked an hour and a half to
think it over. Then he started for a walk but
returned on time and made this announcement:
11 I have decided not to accept. I want the
$10,000 bad enough but I've thought the matter
over and I can't go back on the boys."
Then he wound up the conversation, according
to Mr. Spalding, by borrowing $500, but he never
wavered in his allegiance to the Brotherhood.
With the new war under way the Association
invaded Cincinnati for a starter and the fran-
chise was turned over to A. L. Johnson, the
Cleveland traction magnate. On the eve of the
race Johnson sold the club to the National
League, but the American Association succeeded
Revolt of the Brotherhood 117
in tying up in the courts the $30,000 purchase
money. The self-same Mike Kelly, who in the
previous season had refused to sell out the
Brotherhood, was put in charge of the team hut
failed to make good as a manager and the club
proved a sporting and financial bloomer, the
team being transferred to Milwaukee before the
end of the season.
Nothing daunted by reverses Comiskey organ-
ized his motley crew in a last desperate effort to
give St. Louis another pennant winner. By keep-
ing a tight rein on the players and jollying the
more and more eccentric Von der Ahe, he suc-
ceeded in holding the team together during that
final season in St. Louis when raids by rival
league clubs were of daily occurrence. Despite
adversities which dogged his footsteps he landed
the Browns in second place, Boston annexing the
last championship of the old Association.
The Browns shuffled off with the following
team: Jack Boyle and Tom Dolan, catchers;
Clark Griffith and Jack Stivetts, pitchers ; Charles
Comiskey, first base; William Robinson, second
base; Danny Lyons, third base; Shorty Fuller,
short stop; W. E. Hoy, left field; Curt Welch,
center field; Thomas McCarthy, right field.
The season left several of the American Asso-
ciation clubs on the financial rocks with as many
of the National League in no better condition.
The Association, though groggy, decided to carry
on the fight the next year but the National, seeing
a chance to get into undisputed possession of the
field, conducted a series of secret " conversa-
tions " with the weakest of the flock. These
prospered to the extent that in December of that
year the deal for the amalgamation of the two
leagues was consummated at Indianapolis.
The finishing touches included the buying out
of four clubs for $135,000 and taking in the other
four thus making a twelve-club circuit of the
National League. A newly organized club in
Chicago, headed by Fred Pfeffer, the former
White Stocking and Brotherhood star and who is
still making this city his home, was one of those
absorbed. Those bought outright were Boston,
Milwaukee, Columbus and Washington. Balti-
more, St. Louis and Louisville became full
fledged members of the older league as also did
Washington, the latter franchise having been
purchased by the Wagner Brothers, who had
sold their Philadelphia club to the National
The double shift landed Comiskey with the
National League for the first and only time, the
maker of champions signing a three-year contract
to manage the Cincinnati Beds for John T. Brush,
Revolt of the Brotherhood 119
who had gained control of the team in that mar-
velous shuffle at Indianapolis.
At this particular time Comiskey was bent on
laying up something for a rainy day and Cincin-
nati represented the best pickings. He could no
longer remain with Von der Ahe, who had
acquired the fatal habit of regarding himself as
a baseball man. Through diplomacy and the
careful use of the influence he had acquired over
him in former days, Comiskey had succeeded in
keeping " der boss president " at arms length
during the final Association season but with the
reorganization the two came to the parting of
The Association being no more, the National
League presented the only opportunity, but it was
with great reluctance that Comiskey marched
under its banner. He was even free at that time
with his opinion of the magnates, most of whom
he cordially disliked. He did his best to give
Cincinnati a winner but he never could become
either enamored of, or accustomed to the peculiar
brand of politics which regulated the affairs of
the parent organization at that time.
Having grown up with it he always entertained
a warm regard for the old Association and he
could never forget the virtual scuttling of the
craft, which partly accounted for the unbounded
120 " Commy "
enthusiasm with which he entered the fray in
1900. To him the deed had had a touch of the
piratical about it with the Jolly Roger replacing
the emblem of sportsmen at the mast head. But
with a family to support, sentimental considera-
tions had to give way to the practical. Were he
to move over to the camp of the enemy his tent
would be pitched far away from the scenes of his
former triumphs, and thus he transferred his
chattels to Eedland and St. Louis saw him no
"COMMY" BECOMES AN OWNER
Comiskey switches from brown to red stockings
Lauds John T. Brush Byron Bancroft Johnson is
''discovered" Western League is organized
' ' Commy ' ' becomes his own boss Spends five years
in St. Paul as minor league magnate "Izzy" and
"Pat" in the lineup.
Cincinnati had been a member of the National
League two years when Comiskey moved to the
Queen City. It had gained little renown through
the connection and the fans still referred with
reverance to the surpassing days of 1869 and
1882, the former year having been made glorious
by the unparalleled triumps of the undefeated
Eed Stockings while the latter marked the period
of the only pennant which had flown in Redland
during two decades.
The success of the new manager was only
mediocre. Although he did no better than his
predecessors his record was no worse than those
who followed him. Until the coming of Pat
Moran, in this year of grace, 1919, Cincinnati has
122 " Commy "
been the slough of despond for every manager
except Charles Snyder, who led the team which
captured the American Association pennant in
Many have speculated on the reason for the
chanipionless belt on the American baseball map,
which embraces four cities Washington, Cin-
cinnati, Louisville and St. Louis. Connie Mack
of the present-day Athletics and Clark Griffith of
the Washington team collaborated to solve it and
the solution was the weather, but neither could
oifer any explanation for the four time winners
in St. Louis nor the fact that Louisville has been
the cock of the walk in the new American Asso-
11 A team in St. Louis and Washington must
be 25 per cent better than any other in order to
win a pennant," was Mack's deduction to which
' ' The heat in those cities has a weakening influ-
ence of the players and their strength is sapped
before the middle of the season is reached, ' ' Mack
is credited with having said.
Accepting this argument at its face value the
old Browns must have been a wonderful aggrega-
tion. Taking it for granted that they were 25
per cent stronger than any other team in the
Association and tacking on the victories over
" Commy " Becomes an Owner 123
Anson's wonderful legion and they must indeed
have been a race of giants.
Neither Mack nor Griffith mentioned Cincinnati
or Louisville but those who have had an oppor-
tunity to spend part of the heated season in either
city, know well enough that they compare favor-
ably with Washington and St. Louis. Comiskey
himself does not attach undue importance to the
hot weather theory and he does not believe that
the weather had anything to do with his inability
to win a flag for Cincinnati. That the mental
atmosphere was not congenial may be taken for
granted and that he worked for a man who knew
little about the fine points of the game is matter
John T. Brush, who succeeded to the ownership
of the club in the winter of 1891, was best known
as a successful clothing merchant although he
had been the controlling factor in the Indianapolis
Club of the National League and had fathered the
classification salary rule which was the immediate
cause of the players* revolt. Being an expert on
woolens did not prevent Brush from rising to the
eminence of the premier baseball politician in the
National League and he was supreme in that field
until his death.
The Brush tendency to pare down the salaries
of the players, which had been inflated to a
124 " Commy "
ruinous degree towards the close of the Eighties,
was not parsimony but was a measure for the good
of the league as a whole. Brush himself was as
liberal in his dealings with his players as the
majority of the magnates of his time, but his name
was anathema to the rank and file, principally
because of his lack of sympathy for the indi-
vidual. He was pictured as imperious and wily
and he was all of the latter but he lacked the
attributes of a czar. Incidentally sporting writers
dubbed him as the original * * gumshoe ' ' magnate
in the game. Comiskey thought differently of
his new boss and, although the majority of his
personal friends were more or less at outs with
the Cincinnati owner, who later became the con-
trolling factor in the New York Giants, the ' ' Old
Eoman ' ' always insisted that the merchant-
magnate was open and above-board in his dealings
" Mr. Brush was one of the best men I ever
worked for," said Comiskey, " and, although he
could not be considered an expert so far as the
playing end was concerned, he knew more about
the game than the majority of the owners of his
time, and what he did not know he was willing
to learn from those who did. In the politics of
the game he was in a class by himself, being one
of the brainiest men ever connected with the sport.
" Commy " Becomes an Owner 125
1 * There was nothing stingy or mean about him,
but there were few players who could put any-
thing over on him. He always treated me with
every consideration and when I left him he
assured me that a place would be open for me as
soon as I had gone broke. He tried his best to
dissuade me from going to St. Paul, which he
insisted was the graveyard among the minors,
but having gotten used to cemeteries it was all
the same to me. When he failed to change my
mind he ended up our conversation with this
" < "When you are broke come back here and if,
in the meantime, you need any help let me know. '
" The fact that he became the most uncom-
promising opponent of the American League later
on does not detract from the estimation in which
I hold his memory. Regardless of the enemies he
made our own league was solid against him,
including myself I still think of him as one of
the biggest men that the game has produced. ' '
The three-year " sentence " to Cincinnati was
fraught with tremendous consequences for the
sport. It was during this period that the plans
for the American League the organization
which was to revolutionize baseball and make it
truly national in character were developed.
Prior to his coming to Ohio Comiskey had
126 " Commy "
formed the acquaintance of a young newspaper
man from Cincinnati, one Byron Bancroft John-
son, at that time sporting editor of Murat
Halsted's Commercial Gazette. Johnson admired
Comiskey both as a player and as a man, while
the latter in turn recognized in the peppery writer
qualities that were soon to make their imprint on
the game. Johnson, however, was no worshipper
of John T. Brush, regarding the Indianapolis
merchant as an interloper and a factor inimical to
the best interest of the sport. The dislike was
mutual and, although later a formal truce was
patched up, the feud between the two lasted until
the death of Mr. Brush.
The sporting writer, younger in years than Cin-
cinnati's newest guest, despite his distrust of the
owner, never wavered in his allegiance to the
manager. The partnership then formed has never
been sundered and the mutual friendship was the
basis for the prosperous condition of the sport
today. The disagreements which have peri-
odically come to the surface always have been
more apparent than real and, regardless of per-
sonal differences which have developed, Johnson
and Comiskey have stood shoulder to shoulder
for the betterment of the game for almost a
quarter of a century.
The antipathy, which Brush felt towards
" Commy " Becomes an Owner 127
1 'Ban " eventually resulted in the formation of
the rival league and Brush himself unconsciously
became the biggest booster for the emerging
Goliath. The trenchant pen which Johnson
wielded gave the Indianapolis-Cincinnati magnate
many an uneasy hour and he was not adverse to
giving him other employment should the change
take him out of Cincinnati. When Comiskey
suggested to his employer that " Ban " would be
a good man for the presidency of the Western
League, Brush was torn by conflicting emotions.
He would like to separate Johnson from his news-
paper job if this could be accomplished without
showing any favors. If the Western League posi-
tion would keep him out of Cincinnati, well and
good. If it should prove too big for him, so much
the better, as in that case he would be discredited.
When the day arrived on which a choice would
have to be made, Brush, who owned the Indian-
apolis club, missed his train. The other delegates
considered Comiskey as representing the wishes of
the Cincinnati magnate and cast their votes for
Johnson and thus launched the career of one of
the most remarkable executives that the baseball
game has known.
Taking the moves which led up to the formation
of the American League in their logical sequence,
beginning with the organization of the Western
128 " Commy "
League, the conviction is forced upon the his-
torian that Comiskey was the real founder of the
only rival that the old National League ever had.
As early as 1893 the "Old Eoman " had
mentally drafted an enlarged Western League. It
had its beginning on a trip in the South. After
listening to tales of poverty poured into his ears
by Southern League managers, Comiskey sug-
gested to a number, all personal friends, that up
North good baseball territory was going begging.
They took him at his word and in the following
year several moved their chattels across the Mason
and Dixon line and the Western League came into
The circuit over which Johnson first presided in
1894 was modest in its scope and territory, con-
sisting of Sioux City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee,
Kansas City, Toledo, Indianapolis, Detroit and
The real organizer being under contract to the
Cincinnati club, was unable to realize his ambition
of becoming an owner until his agreement with
Brush expired. Immediately after the 1894 sea-
son he bought the Sioux City franchise and moved
the team, or what was left of it, to St. Paul. The
good wishes of Brush went with his manager,
although he did his best to persuade " Commy '
not to make the leap. An even more attractive
contract than he had enjoyed was put before him,
but the manager turned down a sure thing for
the dubious privilege of becoming his own boss.
The St. Paul venture made " Commy " rich in
experience but poor in purse. The size of his bank
roll necessitated rigid economy and the strength
of the team was in direct ratio to the resources
back of it. He did not make a splurge, but
endeavored to break even.
It has always been the contention of Comiskey
that the only useful owner in baseball has been
the one who has been through the mill as a player
and manager, and the sentiment has not been in
disparagement of that host of sportsmen-capi-
talists who have had a hand in upbuilding the
game. It is simply a conviction with ' ' Commy, ' '
born from experience.
1 1 There has been many a good loser in baseball
who never slid into a base, ' ' commented Comiskey
once, " but the man I would rather see behind a
club when it means a fight to a finish is one who
learned the game on the field. That kind of man
will stand to lose his last dollar without a whimper
while one who regards the game as an investment
is generally among the first to pull out. Sentiment
must have equal weight with business judgment. ' '
A choice story supporting this theory was cir-
culated in the early days of the American League,
130 " Commy "
when Ban Johnson would turn up with a new
bunch of capitalist-backers at every meeting.
There had been a change of owners in Detroit
and the enthusiastic " Ban " was congratulating
the rest of the magnates over the acquisition of
Samuel F. Angus, who was a power in the financial
world. Comiskey listened intently and then, prob-
ably having in mind his experiences in the
Brotherhood days when some of the wealthiest
backers of the players were first to run for cover,
dryly remarked :
' ' One more millionaire will break the American
" Commy " never has changed his viewpoint
and that is why he has always been willing to
back practical baseball men to the limit of his
ability, while avoiding entangling alliances with
men of money. It is doubtful if there is any other
owner in baseball who has backed more minor
-league clubs than has Comiskey. It has been a
habit with him when some of his veteran players
have started to slip to offer them their choice of
some minor league club. I know that this hap-
pened on at least three different occasions.
11 Go out and pick your club and I will back
you," would be " Commy 's " injunction. " If
you make any money it is yours; if there is a
deficit at the end of the season I will make it up. ' '
" Commy " Becomes an Owner 131
As the player-manager was assured a regular
salary there could be no risk.
Comiskey himself enjoyed no such assurances
when he went to St. Paul in 1895. With him it
was sink or swim. Everything he had was
invested in the club, and the equipment of his ball
park compelled him to become chummy with the
bankers. He organized the best team that his
resources permitted, with himself as captain, man-
ager and president. When necessary he also
played first base.
His best years in St. Paul were his first and his
last 1895 and 1899. In each of these seasons he
finished second after flag races which still are
talked about in the Northwest. The club did
poorly in 1896, but moved up to third position in
1897. The following year found the Saints in
11 Commy 's " first season in St. Paul was one
to try his soul. After his first trip, on which he
lost seventeen straight games, he returned home
to find that an injunction had been issued against
him preventing Sunday games on the grounds on
which he was then playing. A reporter on a local
paper broke the news to him on his return to
" Oh, is that all," commented Comiskey.
" They have only stopped me from playing one
132 " Commy "
day a week. I didn't know but that they would
restrain me from playing on the other six. ' '
Then after building a new ' * Sunday park ' ' he
whipped his team into winning condition and
finished second at the end of the season.
While in St. Paul Comiskey picked up two
recruits who later figured prominently in major
league pennant races. These were Frank Isbell
and Eoy Patterson. " Izzy " in time justified
" Commy's " judgment by becoming one of the
great first basemen of the game, while Patterson
did more than his share in winning the first two
flags for the " Old Roman," by his pitching.
Taking few into his confidence Comiskey applied
his mind to expansion as soon as he assumed the
title of president. Needing more time to plan, and
finding that his executive duties interfered with
his playing, first base saw him less and less. He
put on his uniform for the last time in 1898, after
eighteen years on the initial corner, winding up
his career as the most finished first sacker of his
American League is born Spalding furnishes brief
for new rival Comiskey enters Chicago and en-
counters opposition from the National League
Baseball historians explain reasons for invasion
Telegram by Johnson immediate cause of break
Battles in court follow.
An unyielding attitude on the part of the
National League hastened the entry of rival
teams into Chicago and other major league cities.
It compelled Comiskey later to declare for open
warfare against some of his best friends. He
preferred to expand along more peaceful lines.
The financial risks were great. The ruins of the
old Association, the Union and Brotherhood
leagues still blurred the baseball horizon. Yet
out of the wreckage of blasted hopes and dissi-
pated fortunes there still remained something to
be salvaged sentiment.
Without attributing too great a measure of
altruistic motives to the founders of the American
League, it was this asset which was capitalized to
the full by its organizers. Appeals to the fans
134 " Commy "
to help save the game were combined with busi-
ness sagacity, a certain amount of bluff and
elastic bank accounts. Also into the new league
came men who were in the prime of life, quick
on the mental trigger and whirlwinds in action.
These were more than a match for the older
heads and proved adepts in taking advantage of
every false move of the older organization.
No one has presented a more effective brief for
the American League nor vindicated its pro-
moters better than one who was allied with the
opposition A. G. Spalding, famed as a player,
manager, owner and merchant. In explaining
" Freedmanism, " which at this particular time
was rampant in the National League, he penned
these words in his book " America's National
Some years before the opening of the
Twentieth Century the National League had
begun to lose prestige with the public. This
loss of caste was not due to a failure on the
part of the league to correct abuses. It had
achieved wonders in that respect. It had
absolutely driven out gambling and gamblers.
It had done away with the drinking
The trouble now was not with gamblers or
White Sox and War 135
with players, but with club officials, generally
termed " magnates," and it will be readily
understood how difficult a matter it was to
deal with them. Especially was it hard to
reach cases where there was no actual viola-
tion of baseball law just personal cussed-
ness and disregard for the future welfare of
Soon after the American sport became
established as a national pastime, and was
showing for its promoters a balance on the
right side of the ledger, a certain clique came
into the league for purposes of pelf. They
at once let it be known by their acts that
they were in baseball for what they could get
out of it. They were absolutely devoid of
sentiment, cared nothing for the integrity or
perpetuity of the game beyond the limits of
their individual control thereof. With these
men it was simply a mercenary question of
dollars and cents. Everything must yield to
the one consideration of inordinate greed.
Comiskey never missed an opportunity of
" kidding " the opposition magnates on their
slippery tactics when the opportunity offered.
After the first joint meeting between the two
leagues August Herrmann of Cincinnati, who had
136 " Commy "
only lately came into the organization, exclaimed,
with some show of perturbation, while standing
in the lobby of a New York hotel, that he had
lost his watch.
" Well, Garry, don't get excited about it," said
Comiskey. " You will get used to it. Didn't you
just come out of a National League session? "
In addition to internal feuds and distrust
among the members, the National League had
been burdened with a twelve-club incubus. With
the expiration of the ten-year agreement in 1900
plans had been set on foot to reduce the circuit
to eight clubs. This move had been anticipated
by Comiskey, Johnson and their partners and
they planned to take advantage of the readjust-
ment. In the reorganization Cleveland, Balti-
more, Louisville and Washington were abandoned
by the National. The Western offered to buy
the National property in Cleveland if it would be
permitted to put a club in Chicago. There was
ready acquiescence in the former proposal but
violent opposition developed to the placing a
club in Chicago by Comiskey. It was at this
juncture that Ban Johnson started his campaign
of " education " and Comiskey his of good fel
Frequent meetings in Chicago, which was made
the real headquarters of the new American
White Sox and War 137
League, as it had been of the old Western, offered
opportunities of getting the case before the public.
Except that each city was promised a winner, the
financial end was subordinated to the sentimental
and, to the everlasting credit of the American
League founders and those who followed, this has
been kept to the fore from that day to this. Many
may differ but the present high standard of the
sport justifies the conclusions reached.
At the first rumblings of invasion magnates in
the National prepared for the fray. They were
in no condition to fight, due mainly to costly rows
among themselves, and thus it early simmered
down to a game of bluff. At this two could play
and among the champion performers could be
counted the former Cincinnati sporting writer.
At the time Comiskey first publicly broached
his intention of putting a club in Chicago James
A. Hart was president of the National League
club there. Hart and Comiskey were well
acquainted. The former had been secretary of
the old Louisville. Association team while Com-
iskey was manager of the Browns. He was one
of the wheelhorses of the National and knew the
politics of the game from A to Z. He was alse
one of the few who sensed the plans of the new
league but, ajs he afterwards admitted, he failed
to gauge their actual effect on baseball in general.
138 " Commy " ; i
Knowing Comiskey as he did Hart was positive
in his own mind, as he expressed it to the writer,
that once the American landed in Chicago it
would only be a matter of time before the old
league would find rival teams in the majority of
its cities. This fear was an incentive to him in
trying to keep Comiskey out of Chicago, his argu-
ment against admission being based on what was
regarded as an axiom in the National that no
city could support two ball clubs.
Mr. Hart lived to see two clubs prosper in
Chicago, with the receipts of each far in excess
of those which obtained when a single club was
the rule. Mr. Hart retired from the game before
the experiment had actually been put to a lasting
test. He died while this volume of reminiscences
of his greatest rival was being written. He
passed away with no animosity towards the ' ' Old
Boman," whom he freely conceded was one of the
commanding figures in baseball.
Frequent conferences during the winter of 1900
between Comiskey and Hart failed to effect a
working agreement, although the former had,
from the beginning, announced that he would put
a club in Chicago. Naturally the majority of
Hart's fellow owners made his case their own and
the threat was conveyed to the American League
that protection would be withdrawn were the
White Sox and War 139
organization to persist in invading reserved ter-
ritory. President Johnson's intimation that his
clubs were in no need of guardianship and that
they stood ready to withdraw from the National
Agreement had its effect. The National ' ' caved ' ;
and Comiskey was legally admitted.
The fact that Comiskey had already leased a
field and practically closed the contract for his
stand showed how much he was influenced by
the pending negotiations. At the last moment
President Hart succeeded in getting in an
" amendment " to the effect that the American
League team should not use the name ' ' Chicago. ' '
To Comiskey this was of small consequence as
he well knew that, if worthy of the honor, the
fans would soon do their own christening. Be-
sides, he had long before decided that his team
should be know as " White Stockings, " an appel-
lation which was later contracted into " White
Sox," a form better suited to the exigencies of
newspaper headline writing.
Baseball historians have often been hard put
to find a real motive for the expansion of the
Western into the American League. In " The
National Game,'* A. H. Spink suggests that in
reality the American League was the outgrowth
of an organization which he and his fellow enthu-
siasts tried to form in 1898 and 1899 for the
140 " Commy "
purpose of putting new life and energy into the
sport which was sadly on the decline.
Francis C. Richter in his " History and Records
of Baseball," contends that the leading figures in
the Western League, foreseeing the breakup of
the National League twelve-club circuit, simply
took advantage of existing conditions.
George L. Moreland in his " Balldom," lays
the formation of the second major league to the
keenness of the Western owners to get into more
populous cities although their vision did not go
beyond Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. The
later expansion, says Mr. Moreland, was dictated
by the desire of the new organization to help out
the National by heading off a threatened Amer-
A. G. Spalding indirectly gives his explanation
in his essay on " Freedmanism," but is other-
wise silent on the subject.
The opinions entertained, although differing
somewhat, are not necessarily contradictory, as
each partially explains the reason for the organi-
zation of the American League. The real reason
is not to be found in the paragraphs just quoted.
I was present in my newspaper capacity at the
meetings held in Chicago during 1898 and 1899.
It is true that leading figures in the Western
League were present but purely as spectators.
White Sox and War 141
There was at no time any intention on the part of
Comiskey, Johnson, Loftus and others to ally
themselves with those who deliberated over the
formation of a rival to the National League, as
their own plans had already been formulated.
They were only waiting for the opportune
moment, which they knew would come with the
revision of the National League circuit.
Back of it all was a deeper motive for the for-
mation of the American League. When Comis-
key, through force of circumstances, was forced
out of Chicago after the collapse of the Players'
League in 1890, he made the mental determina-
tion that one day the old organization would have
competition in Chicago. Consequently the infer-
ence that the American League invasion was dic-
tated by temporary expedients is erroneous.
The move had been conceived by Comiskey nine
years before its actual consummation. The fact
that the National greased the way has nothing
to do with the case.
It is a part of the secret history of baseball that
Comiskey had a chance to locate in Chicago in
1891. With the breakup of the Brotherhood, A. G.
Spaulding suggested to the then manager of the
Players' League team that he continue to play
on the grounds where the players went broke in
1890. Spalding seemed to have had only a hazy
142 " Commy "
idea as to what organization Comiskey should tie
up to, although the American Association was
suggested. With the suggestion went the pro-
posal that A. C. Anson should take complete
charge of the team on the West Side.
" I told Mr. Spalding that as I was making my
living in baseball it made no difference to me
where I played, " said Comiskey in relating the
incident. " When, however, he suggested that I
had to rely on my own finances I concluded that I
would rather work for someone else. ' '
It is not necessary to look for justification for
a second club in Chicago. If any is needed senti-
ment and business judgment provide the answer.
Chicago was Comiskey 's home. To locate there
meant everything to the minor league magnate.
Chicago was the pivot of the American League
venture. Invasion of other cities would be a
logical sequence and expansion was, in the minds
of the original promoters, never dependent on
the whims of those who controlled the National.
The program was for a second major league
without a conflict, if possible; war to the hilt if
necessary, but a national organization at all
Plans having been perfected the organization
and expansion were mere matters of detail
such as for instance the raising of a few hundred
White Sox and War 143
thousand dollars. As Comiskey had " discov-
ered " Johnson, so the latter dug up Charles W.
Somers. Somers was a baseball fan in Cleve-
land one of those enthusiasts who went to bed
with a baseball guide under his pillow. In addi-
tion to having his head crammed full of averages
Mr. Somers had a bank account which, at this
juncture, was of great importance.
While Somers' partner in the Cleveland club,
John F. Kilfoyle, looked after the home team
during the season of 1900, Somers, Johnson and
Comiskey mapped out a course of action. The
bankroll was transferred to Boston and Somers
became owner of the new American League club
there in 1901. His credit aided one or two others
but as soon as local capital could be obtained he
pulled out of every city except his own.
Somers remained as one of the commanding
figures of the game until financial reverses, not
connected with baseball, overtook him. He held
the office of vice president of the American League
up to a few years ago when the owner of the
White Sox was elected to the position.
Of those who were present at the birth of the
American League in 1900 only two still are con-
nected with it President Johnson and Charles
A. Comiskey. Those who went in to buck the
National as presidents of their respective clubs
144 " Commy "
in 1900 were: Chicago, Comiskey; Cleveland,
John F. Kilfoyle; Detroit, James D. Burns;
Indianapolis, W. H. Watkins; Milwaukee, Matt
Killilea; Buffalo, James Franklin; Minneapolis,
Clarence Saulpaugh; Kansas City, James H.
In order to confer the distinction of an honor-
able " ancestry " on the American League his-
torians have endeavored to link the junior major
organization with certain predecessors of more
or less renown. Age might give it a greater
respectability but the fact remains that it was
the Western League, founded in 1894 which was
expanded into the American League in 1900. The
original Northwestern League, organized in 1879,
and the Western Association, founded in 1888,
cannot claim relationship.
As was to be expected the American League
did not take the country by storm during the first
season principally because it was still pretty
much confined to the West. The well matured
plan to invade the East became public soon after
the close of the first year. The matter was
brought to a head by the American League pur-
posely neglecting to renew its application for pro-
tection under the National Agreement. In
answer to a telegram of inquiry from President
Young of the National League, President John-
White Sox and War 145
son of the American, sent this answer which pre-
cipitated the greatest war in the history of the
The plan of the American League to
occupy eastern territory has been well denned
and I think the men of the National League
thoroughly understand our position in the
For two years we have been menaced by
the possible formation of a league hostile to
our interest and detrimental in many ways to
organized baseball. This annual agitation is
hurtful and we proposed to so shape our
organization as to check it in the future.
In extending our circuit to the far east, it
is unreasonable to assume we could continue
along the old lines prescribed by the National
Agreement. New conditions must alter, in
part, our relations with the National League.
This is a matter I have discussed informally
with some of our members.
In this message from Johnson is found the
basis for the claim that the American League
expanded because it was threatened by a rival
organization. This is refuted when it is called to
mind that in reality the " new " American Asso-
ciation was fostered by the National in the hope
146 " Commy "
that it would serve to head off the ambitious
With the gauntlet thrown down Indianapolis,
Kansas City and Minneapolis were replaced by
Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. There
was no threat made to put a club into either
Boston or New York, as the circuit committee,
consisting of Comiskey, Johnson and Somers,
believed that the parent organization would
accept the inevitable and make overtures for
reconciliation. This hope not being realized and
the National having made it known that it was
on a " war footing " Buffalo was eliminated and
The issue being joined the two organizations
went into a death grapple with no quarter given
or asked on either side. The first move of the
American League, after locating in the East, was
to organize a raid on the playing talent of the
older league. This was blocked for a time by
the Players' Protective Association which held
to the rule of " Prior Contracts. " The ban was
soon lifted and the shifting began.
The National sought recourse in the courts, a
procedure which resulted in diametrically oppo-
site opinions from the bench. The only legal
hurdle of consequence was raised in Pennsyl-
vania where Lajoie, Bernhardt and Fraser, who
White Sox and War 147
had signed with Connie Mack's Athletics, were
enjoined from playing with any other team than
the Philadelphia National League club. The
players being unable to come to terms all three
signed with the Cleveland Club. Lajoie was paid
the highest salary ever received by a ball player
up to that time $24,000 for three years. After
the first raid the following players made up the
different American League clubs with the excep-
tion of Chicago:
ATHLETICS Bernhardt, Piatt, Plank, Fraser, Wiltse, Ketchem,
pitchers; Powers, Leahey, Steelman, Milligan, Smith,
catchers; Lajoie, Davis, Cross, Dolan, Ely, Geier, Murphy,
inflelders; Seybold, Fultz, Mclntyre, Heyden, outfielders.
Manager, Connie Mack.
WASHINGTON Patton, Gear, Mercer, Carrick, Lee, Jordan,
pitchers; Clarke, Grady, catchers; Dungan, Everett,
Quinn, Coughlin, Clingman, inflelders; Waldron, Farrell,
O'Brien, Foster, Luskey, outfielders.
CLEVELAND Wood, Moore, Scott, Hoffer, Hart, Bracken,
Cristall, Bowling, McNeal, pitchers; Yeager, Woods,
Connor, McGuire, catchers; LaChance, Beck, Bradley,
McQuade, Sheibeck, Shay, infielders; Genins, Harvey,
McCarthy, Pickering, Donovan, O'Brien, outfielders.
BOSTON Lewis, Cuppy, Winters, Mitchell, Young, Kellum,
Foreman, pitchers; Criger, Schreckongost, Seville, Mc-
Lean, catchers; Freeman, Ferris, J. Collins, Parent, in-
fielders; Stahl, Dowd, Hemphill, Jones, outfielders.
DETROIT Miller, Yeager, Cronin, Seiver, Owens, Frisk, pitch-
ers; Shaw, Buelow, McAllister, catchers; Dillon, Gleason,
Casey, Elberfeld, Crackett, infielders; Barrett, Nance,
BALTIMORE McGinnity, Nops, Foreman, Howell, Kearne,
Dunn, Yerkes, Schmidt, pitchers; Robinson, Bresnahan,
148 " Commy
catchers; Donlin, Hart, Foutz, Williams, McGraw, Keis-
ter, infielders; Jackson, Brodie, Seymour, Robe, out-
MILWAUKEE Bowling, Garvin, Reidy, Sparks, Husting, Haw-
ley, pitchers; Maloney, Donohue, Connor, Leahey, catchers;
Anderson, Friel, Conroy, Gilbert, Burke, infielders; Duffy,
Geler, Hallman, Jones, Hogriever, Bruyette, Waldron,
PLAYERS' BENCH TO SWIVEL CHAIR
Comiskey locates club on South Side in Chicago
Wins a pennant and says farewell to the bench
Open war between leagues break out Still an-
other flag for the White Sox Fielder Jones takes
command "Iron Man" Walsh gets into the
It would be an exaggeration to contend that
Comiskey entered Chicago in the spring of 1900
with a great team. It would not be in accordance
with the facts to maintain that he moved into a
palatial ball park. The majority of his players
had cavorted on the St. Paul minor league dia-
mond. His plant was put up under pressure of
double shifts and in construction and looks suf-
As pointed out Comiskey had leased the grounds
and drawn the plans for the grand stand and
bleachers before he had been legally admitted.
The real estate was located at Thirty-ninth street
and Princeton avenue, the lot of land having been
the home of the Chicago Cricket Club for years.
150 " Commy "
There were no stands or buildings worthy of the
name but the smooth turf made an ideal playing
A late winter greatly interfered with the build-
ing of the grand stand but, the new magnate being
a son of " Honest John " Comiskey, union arti-
sans waived many of the rules and by working in
daylight, dark and on Sundays, the seats were in
place for the initial game April 21. The united
efforts produced a plant which, although far from
being an architectural symphony, had the utilitar-
ian advantage of capacity and fresh air. The
grand stand was raised high off the ground,
affording a view from beneath, while a ticklishly
balanced roof served as a haven for the reporters.
For transportation the fans depended mainly on
the Wentworth avenue surface line, the cross
town line on Thirty-ninth and the South Side
Elevated railroad, four blocks away.
It had been predicted that the South Side would
prove a morgue for any league team, as South
Siders had never given any evidence of taking
kindly to the national pastime. The Brotherhood
team had failed to draw and when the Chicago
Nationals had played part of their games in the
park of the former, which it had taken over,
President Hart had found the experiment costly.
The teeming West Side had been the baseball
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 151
center of Chicago from the inception of the game,
a fact of which Comiskey was well aware.
Despite gloomy prediction a new chapter was
written with the very first tilt. A capacity crowd
greeted the invaders. The Sox did not fill the
park every day but at the end of the season Com-
iskey was in condition to buy up some of the out-
standing stock, which he had been compelled to
distribute. So well did the fans rise to the occa-
sion that only a few years elapsed before he had
become the sole owner of the club and a few more
seasons sufficed to finance a new baseball plant,
second to none in the country.
With Comiskey on the bench as manager, the
White Sox pulled through and, in a tight race,
won the first pennant of the American League, the
figures reading 82 won and 53 lost for a percent-
age of .607. Milwaukee was second, four games
behind and in order came Indianapolis, Detroit,
Kansas City, Cleveland, Buffalo and Minneapolis.
The team which captured the flag was composed
of Denzer, Fisher, Katoll, and Patterson, pitch-
ers ; Buckley, Sugden and Wood, catchers ; Isbell,
first base ; Padden, field captain and second base ;
Hartman, third base; Shugart, short stop; Hoy,
Dillard, H. McFarland, Brodie and Shearon, out-
It could not by any stretch of imagination be
152 " Commy "
called a fast outfit. In fact it was probably the
slowest aggregation that ever worked under the
" Old Boman," but it was fairly effective with
the bat. Strategy was furnished from the bench.
Of the pitchers, Denzer and Patterson did the
best work while Sugden was an experienced
catcher. Padden, a star second baseman, was
slowing up as were several of the others.
Although of a minor league calibre it was as game
a bunch as ever stepped on the ball field and the
rapidly increasing throng in the stands found it
more and more to their interest to stick until the
end of the ninth inning.
A major league aggregation took the field the
following year. "War having broken out, the
winter was spent in raiding the enemy's pre-
serves. These are the more aristocratic names
found in the 1901 lineup:
Pitchers, Clark Griffith, Jimmy Callahan, Wiley
Piatt, Boy Patterson, John Katoll ; catchers, Billy
Sullivan and Joe Sugden ; infielders, Frank Isbell,
Sam Mertes, Frank Hartman, Ed Burke, Frank
Shugart ; outfielders, William Hoy, Fielder Jones,
Clarence Foster, Ed McFarland.
With the signing of Griffith, Callahan and
Mertes, civil war was on. All three were stars of
the first magnitude and their migration from the
West Side of Chicago to the South Side accen-
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 153
tuated the cleavage between the two camps.
National League fans took it much to heart. A
bitter rivalry sprang up, which continued until
followers of each discovered that even with two
teams there could be enough glory to go around.
With the close of the 1900 season Comiskey said
farewell to the bench, planted himself in the
presidential chair and turned the managerial
reins over to Clark Griffith. The veteran quit
with a record of seventeen years behind him as
manager. In that time he had won five pennants
and one world's championship. He closed a pro-
fessional career that had extended over 25 years,
having been in uniform all but two. When he
stepped from the dug-out he was in his prime
42 years of age and his physical condition was
such that he threatened to break into the game
now and then.
11 If he does he will show the rest of us up,"
was Isbell's sage comment.
It was a pretty good team which took the field
in 1901, the first year of the war, but it had to be.
There was plenty of competition all the way from
Boston to Milwaukee. The list of players given
in the preceding chapter gives a fair idea of the
" class," but after another stirring race Chicago
again won, with Boston second, four games
behind. Detroit, Athletics, Baltimore, Washing-
154 " Commy "
ton, Cleveland and Milwaukee finished in order
On paper, at least, two clubs seemed to have
the edge on the White Sox Boston and the
Athletics. Chicago had increased its speed by
the acquisition of Callahan, Jones, Mertes and
Hoy, but it was far from being a fast combina-
tion. In hitting it was only superior to the team
of the year before but it pulled through on its
pitching and team work, the battle raging to the
end of the season.
With the ring cleared for the free-for-all in 1902
the new league found it convenient to replace Mil-
waukee with St. Louis in the circuit. As the
Mound City had boasted two clubs within its
gates at different times the transfer did not create
a sensation, but the defection of Baltimore, in
the middle of the season, did. The onus for the
smash was placed on John McGraw, who was the
leader of the Orioles at the time. He resigned
in July to become manager of the New York
Nationals and, a month later, the majority stock-
holders sold the team to John T. Brush, who that
spring had obtained control of the Giants. Of
the team McGinnity, Cronin, McGann and Bres-
nahan followed McGraw, while Kelley and Sey-
mour were released to Cincinnati.
Brush had been the man to engineer the deal
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 155
and he had figured that the strategy would have
the effect of breaking up Johnson's circuit or
at least would force the invaders to come to terms.
He never made a greater mistake. Some of the
weak-kneed members in the American League
were for a compromise.
' ' Let it be a fight to a finish, ' ' demanded Comis-
key in Chicago.
The league as a whole went to the rescue of the
plucked Orioles and a makeshift team was put in
the field and finished the season. At the close
President Johnson took advantage of the alleged
underground methods employed by the National
to inflame the fans against the parent body and
thus secured a following in the country's metrop-
olis which later was taken advantage of to the
full. "When the New York invasion finally took
place the American League circuit committee,
still in good working order, fortified itself by
drafting backers for the new club from the lead-
ing political, social and financial lights of the
The elimination of Baltimore and the entry into
New York provided the American League's miss-
ing link, completed an organization which has not
seen a territorial change up to the present, and
eventually led to peace and a new National agree-
156 " Commy "
The invectives hurled at Brush during this
period by supporters of the junior organization
were as emphatic as they were picturesque.
Comiskey did not join in the chorus. The turn
of affairs made baseball enemies of the " Old
Roman " and the New York magnate, but the
Chicago owner always insisted that Brush was
not as bad as painted.
" It is his method of warfare/' Commy would
explain to the interviewer. " "We have ours and
we will whip them at the gate. There is the place
to decide the fight."
Comiskey was right. The clicking of the turn-
stiles and the daring incursions into the players'
fold decided the fray. At the end of the 1902
season came overtures for peace. With Harry
C. Pulliam as president of the National League it
was not difficult to reach an agreement, which was
signed at Cincinnati, January 10, 1903.
With the new compact baseball was put on a
solid foundation and the structure was not again
to be disturbed until a decade had passed.
It is not the intention to go into the details of
each pennant race which followed the first year
of actual warfare. Only the high spots in the
career of the White Sox will be touched upon.
The statistics of the game may be safely left to
the many excellent baseball " guides."
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 157
New names are to be found on the 1902 White
Sox roster in Garvin, McMackin, Eddie Hughes,
Leitner, Durham, Eddie McFarland, Daly, Strang
and Green the latter " Danny " of the Cubs.
Several others were tried out but found wanting.
The name of George Davis also appears for the
first time. Davis had twice been manager of the
Giants and, although well along in playing years,
was considered one of the best infielders in the
game. The veteran braced up the infield but
other teams also had been greatly strengthened
through new raids and the best the Sox could
do was to finish fourth to the Athletics. St.
Louis and Boston were second and third respec-
tively, while Cleveland, Washington, Detroit and
Baltimore trailed Chicago.
The newcomers on the 1903 White Sox team,
after the final foray into the enemy's territory,
were Flaherty, White, Dunkle, Owen and Altrock,
pitchers; Slattery, catcher; Dolan, Tannehill,
Magoon and Clarke, infielders, and Hallman, out-
fielder. To Griffith was assigned the task of
piloting the new Gotham team and Jimmy Calla-
han succeeded his former teammate as manager.
Through a combination of circumstances, with
injuries predominating, the Sox became the Amer-
ican League doormat, being unable to finish bet-
ter than seventh, Boston capturing the flag. The
158 " Commy "
Athletics, Cleveland, New York, Detroit and St.
Louis were above Chicago, while Washington
alone trailed it.
This year saw the first of the Sox-Cubs series
for the city championship. It proved the longest,
in point of games, bar one, which either had
engaged in, fourteen games being crowded into
the first two weeks of October. Each won seven,
the series terminating in a draw. Comiskey was
insistant on playing the fifteenth, but Frank Seele,
manager of the Cubs, demurred. He gave as the
reasons that the contracts with the players had
expired and that Joe Tinker, his star short stop,
had a date at the altar in Kansas City.
The historic gameness of the Sox again came
to the front in this series. The Cubs were getting
a long lead in games early. Altrock turned the
scales. He was not, at this time, considered much
of a pitcher, and had been given only a minor
part. When all the star Sox pitchers had been
walloped Nick volunteered.
" Give me a chance,'* he pleaded with Callahan.
" I can lick them. I have as much as I always
had my glove and that 's enough. ' '
Altrock pitched and won.
The year 1904 was marked by the appearance
with the White Sox of Edward Walsh, a giant in
size but of small attainments as a ball player.
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 159
He had been drafted from the Newark club of
the Eastern League, where he rejoiced in the
sobriquet of " Iron Man." He was all of that
when he first reported to the spring training
camp at Marlin, Texas, but that exhausted his
repertoire. He had speed to burn but didn't
know how to use it. He was impossible as a
fielder and a bunt hit in his direction was always
good for at least one base.
Coal mining around Plains, Pennsylvania, in
his early days had failed to stunt his physique,
and " Apollo " proved no misnomer. When,
however, he came to carry out the role of the
Grecian divinity aside from music and oratory,
Walsh fell afoul of the " Old Boman." Posing
had never been an attribute of " Commy." It
was an art with Walsh. On the point of deliver-
ing the ball he sometimes would stand for a min-
ute or more, with arms poised on high, shoulders
thrown back, one foot a step in front of the other
and all the time never moving a muscle. Coming
off the field one day Comiskey accosted him.
" That's a great pose you got, Ed," began the
Sox boss, " but I don't think you keep it long
enough. When you get your arms above your
head hold the position until they get the cameras
Walsh saw the point, but never entirely dropped
160 " Commy "
the pose. Later on he used it to develop a throw
to bases, especially first, that had every runner
in the league " buffaloed." The victims of the
deadly snap throw insisted that it was "balk "
motion, but Ed got away with it, as no umpire
had the heart to interfere with a maneuver which
was the acme of artistic deception.
Having looked him over once both Callahan
and Comiskey came to the conclusion that Walsh
had been a whale among minnows and that he
should be given the opportunity of resuming the
role. Yet, somehow or other, he was retained.
An incident, considered of no moment at the time,
turned the scales in his favor and eventually
made him one of the greatest hurlers of all time.
In the Sox camp at Marlin was a pitcher by
name of Elmer Stricklett, He was the opposite
to Walsh in build, and yet he handed up a ball
to the batters in practice which was unhittable.
It took twists and turns in approaching the plate
that were against all the laws of gravity. Every-
body took a swing at it. Most of them missed it,
sometimes by a foot or more. Billy Sullivan,
catching, found the ball wet and slippery.
" What's the idea," demanded the backstop,
who was not enamored of handling the sphere.
" Oh, that's my way of pitching," explained
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 161
" What do you call it? '- insisted Sullivan.
" Don't know," was the answer. " I suppose
' spitball ' explains it as well as anything. ' '
No one watched the gyrations of the ball closer
than did Ed Walsh. Curiously enough Stricklett
hailed from the same club as did Walsh, although
Elmer had preceded the " Iron Man " a couple
of years. It was while he was with the Newark
club that Stricklett had been taught the delivery
by Pitcher Corridon of the Philadelphia Nation-
als. Corridon only possessed the rudiments of
the delivery. He knew it combined a drop and
curve, both in and out, yet he never could control
it. Stricklett started to perfect it while with the
Brooklyn club. When he joined the White Sox
he had mastered it fairly well, but before he
could show its effectiveness he developed a lame
arm and was released. He is credited with having
pitched one game for the White Sox. His pupil
figured in 415 games and it was not until 1913
that he complained of a sore wing.
Walsh continued to grow as a pitcher, but
slowly at first. It was not until 1906 that he got
into his real stride. In that year he pitched in
41 games. In 1908 he figured in 66, a record for
the league. Then in successive years he rolled
up a record of 32, 45, 55 and 62. He became the
master of the moist delivery and the idol of the
162 " Conimy "
fans. Even Comiskey became reconciled to his
" pose." Bonuses, autos and other tokens of
value were showered on him.
Heroes make friends. Walsh's were legion.
He could have dispensed with many to his own
advantage. While at the height of his career some
of his self-appointed advisors suggested that he
didn't get enough money from Comiskey.
" Stand out for $7,500," was the advice.
It was suggested that he put his affairs in the
hands of a lawyer. The attorney wrote one letter
to Comiskey. He never repeated as " Commy "
answered the first as only he could do.
" So Walsh has a lawyer now," said Comiskey
at the receipt of the epistle. " He didn't need one
during the three years I was paying him to sit on
the bench and learn something about pitching."
Walsh got a job coaching a college team after
he heard from his friend the attorney. When
he didn't hear anything from Comiskey he jumped
on a train, came to Chicago and signed the con-
tract laid in front of him. It was for less
money than he would have received had he been
without " legal advice."
That fall he was handed a check for $3,000 to
be applied towards the education of his two boys.
Eeports to the contrary, Walsh was pai'd one of
the highest salaries of any player in the league.
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 163
It did not always figure in the contract, but he
got it just the same.
Came the time, in the spring of 1913, when
Walsh switched from a baseball to a medicine
ball. It was at Paso Robles, California. He
tossed the big leather sphere once too often.
Something snapped in his shoulder and he was
through as a pitcher. For three years he sat on
the bench practically useless to the team. Comis-
key spent a small fortune in trying to rehabilitate
him. Bone setters and masseurs lived in clover
while the experiment was going on, but the mighty
hurler never again pitched a game in his old-
Through as a pitcher Comiskey offered him a
minor league club. Walsh hated to think that
he couldn't " come back,'* and turned it down.
His last trial was with the American Association.
He failed. Coming into Comiskey 's office that
summer he admitted that his career as a ball
player was over.
" I knew you were through years ago," said
Comiskey, " but you are still on the White Sox
pay roll. I need a good scout."
Contemporaneous with Walsh was Frank
Smith, another giant. He had all the earmarks
of a great pitcher. Also some peculiarities. One
of these was a windup with men on the bases,.
164 " Commy "
which carried all the frills of an acrobatic feat.
Callahan tried to change his style, but to no pur-
pose. Comiskey, finally becoming exasperated,
called Smith in.
' * When a man on first is trying to steal, while
you are pitching, the catcher must throw the ball
to third base instead of second," said Comiskey
with mock seriousness.
" But why? " innocently asked the big twirler.
" Because when you get through your windup
the runner ought to be sliding into that bag,"
answered the " Old Roman."
Donohue also appeared for the first time on this
trip to Marlin the immortal Jiggs, who after
a disappointing start became the most finished
first baseman of the decade. Then there were
Berry and Heydon, catchers; Dundon and Boss-
man, infielders; Ducky Holmes and Huelsman,
Before the season ended, left field had a new
occupant in Jimmy Callahan, who had relinquished
the managership to Fielder Jones in midsummer.
The new manager proved an ideal leader and
the Sox, through a spurt at the close, waltzed into
third place in the race, with Boston winning the
championship. New York finished second, and
after Chicago came Cleveland, Athletics, St. Louis,
Detroit and Washington.
Players' Bench to Swivel Chair 165
If any justification for the choice of Fielder
Jones as manager was needed, the 1905 campaign,
the season of preparedness for greater things,
furnished it. With the exception of infielder Bohe,
Jones practically stood pat on the team and made
the race the most spectacular seen in the Amer-
ican League up to that time. For the greater part
of the journey the White Sox and Athletics were
neck and neck, Chicago leading in the middle of
the season by a narrow margin. After falling
behind when the season was two-thirds over, the
Sox came again and by a sensational spurt came
within one game of Connie Mack's whirlwinds.
They played eleven games in six days away from
home. The Sox lost, but they compelled the Ath-
letics, the eventual winners, to travel the rocky
road of uncertainty until the third from the last
day of the season. At the finish the Athletics
had won 92 games and lost 56 ; the Sox had won
92 and lost 60.
The rest of the contenders were outclassed,
Detroit being the nearest, Boston, Cleveland, New
York, Washington and St. Louis trailing.
Peace having been declared between the rival
Chicago clubs, the post-season games were
resumed. The brilliant playing of Frank Chance
was a big factor in the victory of the Cubs, who
vanquished the Sox four games out of five.
THE " HITLESS WONDERS " AND TWO
Race in 1905 a curtain-raiser for greater things
Nineteen victories in a row Sox win their third
pennant Defeat Cubs for the championship of the
World Charles W. Murphy is introduced Gives
his opinion of rival owner.
Comiskey's greatest year in baseball developed
several changes from the 1905 lineup. George
Rohe divided the third base position with Lee
Tannehill, while Isbell became a second baseman.
Callahan, having come to the conclusion that he
could do better as a semi-pro magnate, quit the
big ring, while Holmes and Danny Green were
released. Dougherty, Hahn, O'Neill, Vinson,
Hemphill, Fiene, Both, Hart and Towne donned
the white hosiery for the first time.
The fierceness of the struggle in 1905 had filled
the home fans with the hope that the Sox would
make a runaway race of it in 1906, but after a fair
start the team was floundering in the unfamiliar
surroundings of second division. In hitting they
The " Hitless Wonders " 167
had, year after year, gradually dropped from .275
in 1901 to .237 in 1905. They had already acquired
the title of " hitless wonders," but they were
rapidly becoming more and more hitless without
While the Sox were trying to get together, the
Athletics, New York and Cleveland teams were
having the race to themselves. Detroit threatened
now and then. Sometimes the leaders were
switched almost daily, but of the glory Chicago
had no part.
Towards the latter part of July Fielder Jones
had succeeded in getting his pitching staff in con-
dition for a drive and, starting on August 2 he
began his victory march of 19 straight games, a
record surpassed but once in the history of base-
ball. Providence had won twenty straight in 1884,
as a member of the National League, the pitching
of " Hoss " Eadbourne making the feat possible.
As a unique feat in the annals of the game the
complete record of the White Sox during this
marvelous drive is here reproduced:
August 2 White Sox, 3; Boston, 0. White- Young.
August 3 White Sox, 4; Boston, 0. Walsh-Harris.
August 4 White Sox, 1; Boston, 0. Patterson-Dineen.
August 5 White Sox, 10; Athletics, 2. White-Bender.
August 6 White Sox, 7; Athletics, 2. Owen-Coombs, Coak-
August 7 White Sox, 4; Athletics, 0. Walsh-Waddell.
168 " Commy "
August 8 White Sox, 1; Athletics, 0. Patterson-Plank (10
August 9 White Sox, 3; Athletics, 2. White-Dygert (10
August 10 White Sox, 2; New York, 1. Walsh-Chesbro.
August 11 White Sox, 8; New York, 1. Owen-Hogg, New-
August 12 White Sox, 3; New York, 0. Walsh-Orth.
August 13 White Sox, 0; New York, 0. White-Chesbro (9
August 15 White Sox, 6; Boston, 4. Walsh-Tannehill,
August 16 White Sox, 9; Boston, 4. Patterson, Altrock-
August 17 White Sox, 4; Boston, 3. Owen, White- Young.
August 18 White Sox, 10; New York, 0. Walsh-Chesbro.
August 20 White Sox, 4; New York, 1. White-Orth.
August 22 White Sox, 6; New York, 1. Walsh-Chesbro,
August 22 White Sox, 11; New York, 6. Owen-Hogg, Grif-
August 23 White Sox, 4; Washington, 1. Patterson-Falk-
The first twelve games were played at home.
Then came three at Boston, four at New York and
one at Washington.
It will be noticed that Walsh won seven of the
nineteen games. His moist delivery was beginning
its deadly work, which was repeated for six suc-
cessive seasons. Walsh went up against some of
the best pitchers in the league. Waddell, perhaps
the greatest left-hander who ever lived, fared no
better than the rest. Of this remarkable series
eight games were shut-outs. Of these Walsh had
The " Hitless Wonders " 169
four to his credit. The total number of runs
the opposition garnered off of his delivery was six,
fewer than one per game.
On August 7 the White Sox had reached second
place in the race. On August 12 they looked down
on the rest from the top. Once having reached the
peak the real battle began and, still ' ' hitless, ' ' but
now ' * wonders, ' ' the White Sox won a reputation
for gameness which has seldom been equalled. An
indication of their pluck is furnished by the record
of 29 games won during the season by one run.
On September 3 they were dislodged from first
place by New York, the Highlanders holding the
lead until the 13th. On September 14 Chicago
was in a tie with New York, but they went to the
front the next day. The Sox paled for just one
day September 21 but were back in the lead
twenty- four hours later. Failing to stay down, the
Gotham crew stepped over Comiskey's battling
cohorts and took a front seat in the procession
during September 23 and 24. Chicago, however,
was through " fooling " and grabbed the lead on
the 25th to hold it until the finish.
Putting any construction one pleases on the race
as a whole, it was patent to any observer that the
Sox had bluffed their way through. They finished
w r ith a team batting average of .228 the lowest
in the league. Great pitching had been con-
170 " Commy "
tributed by White, Walsh, Patterson and Owen,
but runs are needed to win and gilt-edged twirling
is often found among tailenders. The answer was
found in strategy and team work. Given the
slimmest kind of opening, a 100 per cent defense
would be necessary to keep the Sox from trundling
the winning run over the plate. Their own defense
was well nigh perfect.
On the offense the slogan was to get on the bases
by hook or crook and to * ' claim everything. ' ' As
a result no friendly greetings were exchanged
between the manager and the umpires and before
the season had come to a close Jones had worn a
path between the plate and the bench.
Watching the maneuvers of the players while
at home was an upstanding figure in a gray
" bonnet." At every game he took his position
behind the heavy wire screen under the stand. It
wasn't the best place in the world for a lookout
but it is not on record that any plays escaped him.
Every forenoon the manager and the observer of
the day before would meet in the private office of
the president, a boxlike stall close to the entrance
and furnished with two chairs, a plain desk and a
box of cigars.
The conversation would be brief and to the
point. Jones would be apprised of the fact that
the owner of the team had noticed a lot of things
The " Hitless Wonders " 171
from behind the screen. Comiskey didn't believe
much in " inside " baseball, but he did insist on
his men playing the game ' ' right. ' ' His principal
strategy consisted in being in position to complete
any play that might possibly come up. Nothing
so exasperated him as a player failing to cover
his base. Noticing once that second base had been
left without a keeper after the ball had been hit
he recalled this to the manager after the game.
" Tell the players," said Comiskey with some
heat, " that they can get just as good a view of
a ball going over the fence while standing on the
bag as they can twenty feet away."
Comiskey has often been charged with inter-
fering with his managers in running the team. Put
to the test he probably would plead guilty. His
pilots would also readily admit that they appre-
ciated the interference from a man who had for-
gotten more baseball than most men knew. No
one, however, ever accused " Commy " of coming
between player and manager. When one from the
ranks appeared in the ' ' front office ' ' it was either
to get his pay check or the visit was at the sug-
gestion of his field boss. If he had a kick when
he came he left with the impression that he owed
the universe an apology for being permitted to
With the 1906 pennant race over, began prepara-
172 " Commy "
tions for that classic combat between the Sox and
the Cubs which, even to this day, is nurtured in
song and story in the district ' ' around the yards. ' '
The Cubs had captured the National League flag
and had set a new record in games won with 116.
The team was a worthy successor to Anson's
1 ' Heroic Legion ' ' and boasted of an infield, which
in some respects even surpassed that famed stone-
wall of the Eighties.
No greater combination had been seen for years
than was offered by Chance, Evers, Tinker and
Steinfeldt. In the outfield were Sheckard, Hof-
mann and Schulte. Brown, Overall, Euelbach and
Pfiester as pitchers had held the greatest batters
in the National League in the hollow of their
hands. Johnny Kling was rated as the top notch
catcher and with Frank Chance as leader they were
considered invincible by the West Side fans, the
team going into the series heavy favorites.
Nick Altrock, who in 1903 had insisted that his
stock in trade consisted of only his glove, won the
first game for the Sox at the West Side park. The
score was 2 to 1 and the South Side comedian went
up against Mordecai Brown, then in his prime as
a hurler. The second game was a walkover for the
Cubs on the West Side grounds, Ruelbach, who
opposed White, letting down the American
leaguers with one hit, the score being 7 to 1.
The " Hitless Wonders " 173
The following day, on the West Side, George
Eohe immortalized himself by pounding out a
triple with the bases full, then and there winning
the game, which ended 3 to 0. The Cubs could
do nothing with Ed Walsh, who allowed but two
hits. Jack Pfiester, for the losers, was almost as
good, permitting four.
The Cubs evened up the series in the fourth
game, through Brown's magnificent pitching, the
three fingered wizard being hit safely only twice,
the game winding up 1 to in favor of the
The fifth no-quarter contest, which went to the
White Sox 8 to 6, was marked by Frank IsbelPs
four two-base hits. In the final White had the
Cubs at his mercy, the Sox winning 8 to 3.
The result was an unexpected blow to the fol-
lowers of the National League, but the defeat
failed to affect the morale of the West Siders,
who, in winning one pennant, acquired the habit.
The series between the Sox and the Cubs served
to introduce Charles W. Murphy, who had pur-
chased the Cubs before the championship season
opened. As a coincidence his first title clash was
with Charles A. Comiskey, whose fortunes he had
followed when a cub reporter in Cincinnati.
Having seen " Commy " play in his early days,
and having been his rival for years, the follow-
174 " Commy "
ing from Mr. Murphy's pen should be of peculiar
When I first knew Charles A. Comiskey,
the beloved " Old Roman " of the famous
Chicago White Sox, he was first baseman and
manager of the time-honored Cincinnati team
under Mr. Brush. I had located in Cincin-
nati after leaving my birth-place at Wil-
mington, Ohio, and was a ' ' kid ' ' reporter on
the late John E. McLean's Cincinnati En-
quirer. At that early age I was wild about
baseball and never let an opportunity to see
a game slide by. Harry Weldon was the
After witnessing Comiskey play a few
games I said one night to Weldon :
" I wish I could have seen Commy play
when he led the Browns to all those pennants
over in St. Louis. I never saw anybody play
such a deep first base and he seems to want
everything that is coming from the umpire.'*
" You are mighty right he does," replied
Weldon, " because he knows that one bad
decision may often lose the game and Comis-
key is a hard loser. Why, the coaching box
was invented to keep him away from the
umpires. He was not what you would term
The " Hitless Wonders " 175
an umpire baiter, but he spent plenty of time
running up to the home plate when the
umpires gave a particularly punk decision,
which might turn victory into defeat."
Ever after that when I beheld the coaching
box, as we see it today I usually associate it
with Comiskey. When Comiskey managed
the Keds he lived at the Grand Hotel in Cin-
cinnati and was about the most popular man
in the Queen City. It was then that I learned
about what a magnetic personality he pos-
sessed. He was a chum of Col. Jerry
Keirsted, Dr. Minor, Captain Tinker and
other pioneer fans and they all loved him
sincerely. After the ball game of evenings
the crowd would gather around a big round
table and play hearts. The ball game would
also be played over in those reunions and I
guess Comiskey could have been elected
mayor at that time if he had aspired to a
His great reputation had preceded him to
Cincinnati and we all knew of his winning
four flags in a row for St. Louis under Chris
Von der Ahe. I thought before I saw Comis-
key play that any stalwart player, who could
bat, was acceptable as a guardian of the initial
sack. Comiskey was the first player I ever
176 " Commy "
saw who played so deep and allowed the
pitcher to cover first base on many plays.
He was a truly wonderful first baseman and
really revolutionized the playing at that posi-
tion, showing creative genius. Comiskey did
not bat like Eoger Conner, Dave Orr or Dan
Brouthers, perhaps, but as an all-round first
baseman he excelled sluggers of that type in
his general worth to a club.
I doubt if there ever was a smarter player
and his quick, intuitive mind was well known
in the baseball world. Comiskey has always
been in sympathy with the players and that
is one reason why he has been so successful
in the national game.
I have always regarded Comiskey as the
father of the American League and the
sponsor of the president of that organization.
There never has been any doubt in my mind
that it was Comiskey who made the American
League what it is today the rival of the
National League. His practical knowledge of
baseball was known throughout the cquntry
and when he advised men with capital to
become club-owners they listened to him and
heeded his advice. It has always been my
belief that Comiskey is the smartest man in
baseball. His magnetic personality has had
The " Hitless Wonders " 177
much to do in creating the wonderful loyalty
to his great team on the South Side of
He was my competitor for years for the
patronage of the public and I always found
him a fair fighter never hitting below the
belt. Few men in baseball realize the com-
posite character of the * ' Old Eoman ' ' his
admirable mixture of sportsmanship with
business acumen. To me he has always been
more or less of an idol a man to be looked
up to. I formed a great admiration for
" Commy ' thirty years ago and it has
increased each year since I met him. He was
much admired by my sponsor in baseball, the
late John T. Brush, who used to deplore that
Comiskey was not in the National League.
Today he is probably the greatest individual
force in baseball and he has reached the
present pinnacle by his own efforts solely.
Comiskey would have been a success in any
other line of human endeavor, because he is a
go-getter. When he started his club in Chi-
cago he took a long chance and shot at the
moon and hit it. Few men would have
braved the hazardous investment in baseball
as he did.
In time of chaos he is always cool and calm
178 " Commy "
and his judgment is of the best. He knows
the inherent strength of baseball and its great
hold on the American people. He realizes
that it will always retain its popularity as
long as it is kept clean and honest. My
experience as a club-owner in Chicago has
taught me to respect Comiskey's views on all
subjects relating to baseball and I have
noticed that when his advice is heeded in
baseball policies, trouble of a serious nature is
avoided. He knows how to feel the public
pulse and is a great asset to the game. Long
may he wave!
The ability of Comiskey as an organizer is
best shown by the fact that until the Amer-
ican League was born no opposition could
stand up against the National League. In the
councils of the National League most of us
regarded Comiskey as the brains of the Amer-
ican League. We always recognized his
shrewdness and ability to do what the public
With the Sox-Cubs series began the era of big-
money. The receipts set a record at $106,550. As
the price of tickets averaged only a little over $1
the total did not reach the large figures of later
years when admissions were inflated to two or
The " Hitless Wonders " 179
three times the normal. This made the players'
share of modest dimensions, so much so that when
the pay checks were handed out, Comiskey pre-
sented to Manager Jones his share of the first
four games $15,000 to be distributed " among
TWO PITCH-OUTS AND A MESS OF BASS
Long wait for a pennant A season without a
parallel Sox lose bunting by one game Fielder
Jones resigns when partnership is denied Joe Can-
tillon in need of friends Comiskey moves into
$1,000,000 plant "Future Greats" join the
Having attained the peak in 1906, after a wait
of twenty years, Comiskey was destined to run
the cycle of eleven seasons before unfurling
another pennant. In the interval five pilots tried
their hand at getting the White Sox to the top.
Four of them failed a quartet from the major
league school. It remained for a " busher,"
Clarence Rowland, to land the fourth American
League flag for the " Old Roman."
Fielder Jones continued as manager until the
close of the 1908 season. In each of the two years
he drove the Sox into third place in the pennant
race. In 1907 he finished five games behind
Detroit, which beat out the Athletics by a nose,
with Cleveland, New York, St. Louis, Boston and
Washington trailing. Hard luck was the Sox
Two Pitch-Outs 181
portion all season. Injuries to Tannehill and
Sullivan and mediocre work by Altrock and Pat-
terson, two of the old reliables, put the world's
best out of the running time and again, but in
grit they were still champions, coming up smiling
after each knockdown.
The same combination, which had won a
world's title, made up the team, only minor
changes being made. Armbruster was added to
the catching staff and Hickman and Quillan to
The season of 1908 will stand without parallel
in the annals of major league baseball. In each
organization the pennant depended on the last
game of the season with the striking coincidence
added of the two Chicago teams figuring in both.
In New York Merkle's lapse in failing to touch
second base necessitated a play-off of the Cubs-
Giants game the day after the season regularly
closed. The victory of Chicago gave the Cubs
their third straight flag.
In the West the White Sox and Detroit went
into a clinch for the flag October 6, the final day
of the schedule. The pennant would go to the
winner as Cleveland, the third contender, had
been eliminated by St. Louis a couple of days
before. ' * Doc ' ' White for the Sox, was knocked
out of the box in the first inning, the Tigers
scoring four runs. " Wild Bill " Donovan for
Detroit was unhittable and Chicago failed to put
a marker over the pan while Detroit added three
for good measure.
While the dentist pitcher was sadly walking to
the dugout " Iron Man " Walsh sallied forth.
He had been on similar errands of mercy
twenty times before during the season which,
added to his regular journeys to the box, totaled
66, a record for the American League. In innings
pitched it would figure up to 464. Having under-
gone the terrific strain of pitching in fourteen
more than one-third of all the games in which the
Sox had been engaged, he proved unequal to the
task and was relieved by Frank Smith.
This erratic hurler held the Tigers at bay dur-
ing the final innings of the game. If ever a pitcher
had an opportunity to atone for his sins it was
Smith. Even though finishing like a whirlwind,
Smith was held responsible for the loss of the
pennant. The fans did not know. Comiskey and
Two rash pitch-outs toward the middle of the
season had deprived the White Sox of their fourth
flag and a possible world 's title. These pitch-outs
were of minor consequence at the time. They
loomed up as nothing else before or since, at the
finish. Oddly enough, they had been made against
Two Pitch-Outs 183
the very team that eventually beat out the Sox
in the last game of the season.
It happened at Detroit.
Smith was pitching.
At a critical stage he twice whizzed the ball wide
of the plate on purpose. He figured that it was
good strategy. No one else did. After the game
Jones took the big twiiier to task. Smith resented
it and made a bluff of * * going after the manager. ' '
Jones failed to report the occurrence to Comiskey
on his return but the president heard of it. The
episode brought out the " Old Roman's " idea of
discipline in strong relief. He took the risk of
losing a pennant in order to make an " example."
Eventually it did cost him a flag or possibly two.
A fortune went with it.
" What have you done to Smith? " was Comis-
key 's opening remark as he greeted his manager.
" Why, nothing," replied Jones, a little non-
" Well, why haven't you I I thought that you
were the manager of the team. ' '
" Am I? " queried the pilot.
" You have never been anything else and as
long as you are with me you will remain so and
I will back you up if you should suspend every
man on the team for the balance of the season,"
184 " Commy "
" In that case Smith is laid off indefinitely,"
replied the manager.
1 1 After you have broken the news to him send
him to me, ' ' was the message from ' ' Commy. ' '
There is no stenographic report of the confer-
ence between owner and player, but Smith himself
was authority for the statement that it was worth
the season's suspension to listen to the " Old
Roman. ' '
Smith's justification of the two unlucky pitch-
outs figured in the conversation as they did in the
race. As he was not reinstated until the very end
of the season, and this happened at the earnest
solicitation of Jones, he, of course, had no oppor-
tunity of bolstering up the weakened pitching
staff. As it turned out, had Smith won a single
game the pennant would have flown at the Sox
Realizing full well what the pitcher's defection
had cost him Comiskey called Smith to his office
after that disastrous final game with the Tigers.
It was a shorter session than the first but equally
impressive to the ball player.
" I told you once that you would not get a
cent," said Comiskey. " I am going to keep my
word. Here is a check for your full salary, but
I am going to send it to your wife."
Smith had never recovered his speech since the
Two Pitch-Outs 185
initial interview, but he managed to blurt out,
once on the outside:
11 Take it from me, he's a square sport."
In that hectic game with the Tigers Jones
finished his career as manager of the "White Sox.
As a player he was done with the sport for ever,
as he never faced another pitcher. Good-byes
were said behind the screen as, true to his scrappy
past, the umpires had ordered him off the field.
Here he prophesied that the fans would vent their
spleen on him for the disaster. It is a fact
that they did and all because White had pitched
in that first inning instead of Smith.
I sat under the stand with Jones from the time
he was banished from the field to the end of the
" Why did I pick White? " he said in answer
to a query. * ' I put him in because I figured him
the best bet against the Tigers and because * Doc '
insisted. White had been a stumbling block for
Detroit all season and he told me that he never
felt better. The fans won't understand, though,
and I will be * panned ' for fair."
That the criticism of the fans had something to
do with the determination of Jones not to return
to Chicago is certain, but there was a weightier
reason why the South Siders saw him no more. It
was not a question of salary. It was something
186 " Commy "
bigger. Jones insisted on becoming a partner of
" Name your own terms and I'll give you a
contract for as many years as you care to remain,"
was Comiskey 's counter-proposal when Jones
broached the question of partnership.
" A partnership or nothing," was the ulti-
matum of Jones and on that rock owner and
The relationship between Comiskey and his
manager had been intimate and each had a high
regard for the other. Both had been cast in the
same mold as regards baseball each being a
superlatively hard loser. Both regarded the
umpire as an objectionable appendage to the game.
Neither could ever imagine an arbitrator with a
friend during the playing season.
Joe Cantillon, manager of the Minneapolis
American Association team, had been close to
Comiskey for years but friendship ceased the min-
ute Joe was appointed an umpire in the early
days of the game. The fact that the two hunted
and fished together for five months after the close
of the season does not blunt the point to the story.
" I was umpiring in an important series between
Baltimore and the Sox at the old Thirty-ninth
street grounds," said Cantillon, in relating the
incident. " The Sox got the short end of a few
Two Pitch-Outs 187
decisions on a Saturday and were defeated before
a big crowd. On my way to the grounds on Sun-
day I ran into a couple of friends of mine who
asked me to take them into the game. I told them
I would try, although I figured that they would
have a better chance if they applied themselves.
" Coming to the pass gate I asked the attend-
ant to ask Comiskey, whom I saw standing in the
distance, for a couple of tickets for my friends.
" ' Sure,' he yelled so you could hear it out on
the street, * let him bring in all the friends he
has. He will need them all today. ' ' '
As they agreed about umpires, there came no
harsh words from " Commy " when his manager
started to wear a path between the plate and the
bench. It was not long before Jones shared the
dubious honor with Griffith, Comiskey 's first
manager, of being ordered off the field more often
than anyone in the major leagues.
It was Jones who was indirectly responsible for
one break between President Johnson and Comis-
key, although he had no intention of being a party
to the feud. It was during a tight race when
Jones, after a run-in with the umpire, had been
indefinitely suspended. Comiskey was hard up
for players at this particular time and there was
no one who could adequately substitute for the
manager in center field. Coincident with the sus-
188 " Commy "
pension Johnson sent a mess of bass to Comis-
" Does Ban want me to play the fish in the
outfield f ' ' asked Commy, and the big row was on.
That Comiskey could look beyond piscatorial
differences became evident a couple of years later,
and before a reconciliation between the two had
been effected. Johnson was up for re-election as
president of the league. Various suggestions were
made regarding the length of term and salary
attached to the office when Comiskey cut the
debate short by making a motion that Johnson be
elected for twenty years at $25,000 a year. "With
all that the owner of the White Sox never changed
his opinion of Johnson's umpires.
With the departure of Fielder Jones came an
era of experiments. Catcher Billy Sullivan was
appointed pilot of the White Sox for 1909. An
effort had been made to bolster up the hitting
strength of the team but without avail as, at the
close of the season, it showed a team average of
.221, four points below the percentage of the pre-
ceding year. Among those added to the team
were Scott, Sutor and Olmstead, pitchers; Payne
and Owens, catchers; Altizer, utility, and Mes-
senger, Cravath, Cole, Welday and Barrows, out-
Accidents became of daily occurrence. Jiggs
Two Pitch-Outs 189
Donohue failed at first. The terrific strain under
which Walsh had worked began to tell on his iron
constitution and he was far from effective. Smith,
Scott and Sutor did good work but were unequal
to the heavy burden and the team finished fourth,
Detroit again winning, the Athletics and Boston
coming next, while New York, Cleveland, St.
Louis and Washington finished in the order named
The Cubs, having been temporarily flagged in
the attempt to create a pennant trust, an oppor-
tunity was offered in the fall of 1909 for a city
championship tilt. The Cubs nearly made a clean
sweep, beating the Sox four out of five games.
Before the following spring Sullivan resigned
and Hugh Duffy, Comiskey's former teammate in
the Brotherhood, took charge and continued as
leader for two years. The pitching department
was strengthened by the signing of Young and
Lange, the catching by Block, the infield by Gan-
dil, McConnell, Zeider, Lord and Blackburne, and
the outfield by the acquisition of Chouinard, John
Collins, Zwilling, Browne and Meloan.
The gamble of the game was never better illus-
trated than by the release of Chick Gandil, which
followed a disappointing trial. A few years later
this player was to return and round out the cham-
poinship team of 1917. Blackburne furnished
another example. He was considered the star of
the Eastern League and Comiskey paid $11,000
for his release, a top figure at that time. Throw-
ing his knee out of joint shortly after he had
joined the Sox he became of little use to the team.
Worse luck pursued the team than in the pre-
vious year and the club was practically reorgan-
ized in midseason, with Sullivan's recovery from
blood poisoning. Lord, McConnell and Black -
burne were then added and towards the close of
the season the shakeup began to yield returns.
Despite the lowest team batting of which a major
league aggregation has ever been guilty .212 -
the Sox finished sixth to the Athletics, with New
York second, Detroit third, Boston fourth, Cleve-
land fifth, Washington seventh and St. Louis last.
The lowly standing of the Sox did not corre-
spond to their environment at the end of the sea-
son. During the year they had moved from the
modest home on Thirty-ninth street to Thirty-
fifth street and Shields avenue, where Comiskey
had built the greatest ball park in the land. Grand
stand and bleacher were of concrete and steel and
were arranged to seat 28,500. Later these were
enlarged to take care of 32,000, which was the
capacity at the world 's series games in 1917. Sur-
rounding the entire field is an ornamental brick
wall. Only one field in the country exceeds it in
Two Pitch-Outs 191
size, the Boston National League park, which is
deeper. The Polo Grounds in New York has tke
depth but lacks the distance in right and left
The cost of the park measured Comiskey's
wealth at the time, which was well over the half-
million mark. To-day the plant could not be
duplicated for less than $1,000,000. Time and
again when it was suggested that improvements
at the old grounds would be appreciated Comis-
key would always reply that as soon as he could
pay cash for land and stands he would build a
park which would be a monument to the game.
He made good his word when the new park was
thrown open on July 1.
For a long time he had had his eye on the prop-
erty on the site of the old Brotherhood grounds
at 35th street and Wentworth avenue. When
opportunity offered he closed the deal but on
account of a clause in the lease he was unable to
get control at the time of the actual spot on which
the big revolt of 1890 had been staged. Conse-
quently he was compelled to go several hundred
feet further west than had been his original inten-
It was no idle figure of speech when he
announced that the new home of the Sox was
dedicated to the fans. Most everybody took him
192 " Commy "
at his word and thousands have appropriated a
share since then. Seldom have the gates been
closed. The feet of thousands have trampled on
the grass, which never had a chance to grow up.
Church festivals, barbercues, free lance games,
meets of all descriptions, picnics and fairs have
had their turn at " Commy 's Park." On the
walls of his office hang engraved testimonials to
his generosity, but none tells the anguish of
ground keepers or gives a hint at the fortunes
spent in making the field fit for the regular
Some years ago " auto polo " became the rage.
Some of Comiskey's friends were interested in its
promotion. Could they have the use of the field?
Certainly, and " use " it they did. Up in the
stand sat Comiskey watching the two contesting
cars chop his field into ribbons. It cost him
$400 to repair the damage. When it was
over he set up a " feed " to everybody who
wished to partake of it and he never charged a 1
cent for the use of the grounds.
" Why do you permit every Tom, Dick and
Harry to use your field? " asked a fellow mag-
" How could I refuse? " queried the " Old
Roman." " The fans built the park, didn't
Two Pitch-Outs 193
It is this attitude which explains the loyalty of
the White Sox fan. Win or lose it is all the same.
They know that whatever the circumstances they
will get a square deal. When Comiskey first
ordered the covered stand thrown open to his
bleacher patrons on rainy days there were a few
complaints from those who had invested in the
more expensive seats.
" Well, I don't think the majority sit in the
bleachers from choice," parried Comiskey.
" Baseball has grown, but the pocketbooks of
some of our patrons have not. As I can't get
them all in my office I have to do the best I can
to keep them from getting wet."
Depending on his employes to -look after the
comfort of the fans in the stands he himself took
charge of the entertainment indoors. Over the
half-dozen entrances leading into the grand stand
he built his offices and reception rooms. The
Woodland Bards ' room is the center of the latter.
Here gather the members of this exclusive organi-
zation which now consists of several hundred, to
gaze on the trophies of the chase and the rod. In
addition there are priceless mementoes of the ball
field gifts from the great of the earth, prized
souvenirs collected from every part of the world.
Open house, with the good things of life on tap,
is kept 365 days in the year. There is not a coun-
194. " Commy "
try on earth which has not had its representatives
inside its four walls.
Newcomers always insist on seeing " Commy."
For everybody there is a " feel at home " greet-
ing. The visitor leaves with the impression that
he has known the " Old Roman " all his life.
" How can you stand being slapped on the
back all day long? " was asked of Comiskey.
'" The minute they stop I want to die," was
his answer, and it was not said in the spirit of self
adulation, either. " There is nothing I enjoy
more than to see others enjoy themselves. When
the gang quits I am through."
The more aristocratic surroundings seemed to
influence the team to nobler deeds in 1911, and it
finished fourth with the Athletics again winners.
Detroit and Cleveland wound up in second and
third place, respectively, while Boston was fifth,
New York sixth, Washington seventh and St.
The changes in the lineup had been slight, the
more important being the addition of Kreitz to
the catching staff, Mullin and Corhan to the
infield, Ping Bodie (Pizzola) and Mclntyre to the
outfield and the return of Jimmy Callahan, who
went to left field.
The new talent boosted the team batting to a
higher point than it had been in ten years. Me-
Two Pitch-Outs 195
Intyre and Lord brought up the average and
Bodie, who came with a high reputation from the
Pacific Coast League, did his part, but did not
quite come up to expectations.
Comiskey had high hopes of Bodie, especially
after it had cost him $10 for an introduction. The
Sox trained at Mineral Wells that spring.
' * Commy ' ' was sitting in the lobby of the hotel,
talking with friends, when the robust Californian
hove to in front of him.
" Could you stand for a $10 advance,
Commy f " asked the massive athlete.
" Sure," answered the Sox owner. " Tell
White (manager of the rookies) to give you the
money. ' '
" Who was he? " someone asked.
11 I haven't met him socially yet," answered
the Sox boss, " but I saw him put the ball over
the fence yesterday and I'll stand a tap for any-
body that can do that."
It was not unusual for Comiskey not to know
half of the rookies that appeared in the spring.
In the anxiety to get a winning team he purchased
them practically by the carload. If one or two
made good out of the lot he considered he had
made a good investment.
Not being able to pick them out himself he
trusted to others to see that they showed up
196 " Commy "
with at least the normal number of legs and arms.
Frequently, however, he got bit. Not many years
ago he signed a player, touted as a wonder by an
Iowa manager. When he reported Comiskey dis-
covered that it was possible to sneak up on him on
his blind side as he had only one eye.
Although his bunch of recruits failed to fur-
nish any major league talent the Sox were kept
fairly well to the front by the great work of Ed
Walsh. When the time rolled around for the
annual set-to with the Cubs the ball he served up
was again cutting strange capers. Mainly
through the " Iron Man's " pitching the Sox
made a clean sweep, winning four games in a
row. Walsh figured in three. He won the first
and fourth and finished the second. Adding the
three to his season's record he had participated
in 58 games since spring.
Jimmy Callahan returned to the managership
in 1912 and he remained as pilot until the close
of the 1914 season. With the switch came a search
for baseball talent. The net was spread the coun-
try over and when the season closed the follow-
ing newcomers had figured on the pay roll : Peters,
Cicotte, Benz, Delhi, Jordan, Bell and Taylor,
pitchers; Kuhn, Easterly and Schalk, catchers;
Borton, Pournier, Johnson, Weaver, Paddock,
Ens and Rath, infielders, and Mattick, outfielder.
Two Pitch-Outs 197
During the final games the battery of Cicotte
and Schalk was paraded before the fans, a pair
destined to become headliners in Comiskey's cap-
ture of his fourth American league pennant and
his third world's flag. Both were of the " Wee
Willie " type. Cicotte, the pitcher, was rated as
a veteran. The catcher was not old enough to
vote. The Boston American League contributed
Cicotte. The Milwaukee American Association
turned over Kay Schalk for a cash consideration
Schalk appeared on the Sox field towards the
end of the season. His first job was to warm up
Ed Walsh in pitching practice. The big fellow,
whom doting fans had nicknamed the " Big
Moose," sized up the youngster behind the plate
and felt compassion in his soul. He motioned to
" You have probably heard that I throw a ball
hard to catch," warned Walsh. " There is also
some speed behind it but I'll just ease 'em in. I
don't want to queer you."
Schalk thanked him but expressed curiosity as
to how speedy he could hand them up. It was
tradition that Walsh's neck assumed a carmine
tint in proportion to his physical effort. He
never left the box with a more ruddy sunset above
his collar than he did after that warm-up. High
198 " Commy "
and low, in and out, they came, spitter, curve and
straight. All looked alike to the pigmy back
stop, who acted as if he was suffering from ennui.
Walsh did not discuss further his cannon-ball
delivery but he suggested to Callahan that he
would like to have the diminutive catcher as bat-
tery mate for the rest of the season. As a mat-
ter of fact, despite his terrific speed, Schalk
always insisted that Walsh was one of the easiest
of pitchers to catch. On the other hand he has
contended that Urban Faber throws one of the
11 heaviest " balls ever handled although the lat-
ter does not use as fast a delivery as did Walsh.
Another player who came to the front in 1912
was Buck Weaver, the firebrand of the team.
Buck had been brought from the Pacific Coast,
where he had nearly set a record for errors, hav-
ing accumulated 70 in 132 games, while playing
The three Cicotte, Schalk and Weaver
formed a nucleus for the world's champions of
1917, but they were unable to do more than to
lend a helping hand for a fourth place position
in the 1912 pennant race. Boston captured the
flag. Washington and Philadelphia were next,
while following Chicago were Cleveland, Detroit,
St. Louis and New York.
With the regular season over the Cubs and Sox
Two Pitch-Outs 199
went into a clinch for the annual Chicago title
series. It took nine games to decide the winner.
The first two were ties. The next three were won
by the Nationals and then followed an exhibition
of gameness seldom equalled, the Sox winning
four in a row and adding another banner to its
With the curtain rung down the mighty Ed
Walsh practically faded from view. He had fig-
ured in 62 games during the season, within four
of the mark which he set in 1908. He dropped to
16 in 1913, another year of additions to the Sox,
but with a lower standing in the race. Fifth was
the best they could get, while ahead of them were
the Athletics, Washington, Cleveland and Bos-
ton, with Detroit, New York and St. Louis bring-
ing up the rear.
Among the newcomers on the team had been
O'Brien and Russell, pitchers; Chase and Berger,
infielders; Chapelle, Beall and Schaller, outfield-
Chapelle figured in the second $18,000 deal
between Comiskey and the Milwaukee team. He
had been the fence buster in the American Asso-
ciation but failed to deliver for Chicago. This
was, however, partly due to an injury sustained
in the spring.
As a matter of form the Sox and Cubs went to
200 " Commy "
grips for the city championship in the fall, the
American Leaguers winning four out of six
games. With the series concluded Comiskey and
Callahan made haste to prepare for the historic
trip around the world.
Late to get under way for the 1914 season, the
Sox failed to " arrive," winding up in seventh
place in the pennant race in one of the most disas-
trous campaigns in which a Comiskey team has
ever participated. Leading Chicago to the wire
were the Athletics, Boston, Washington, Detroit,
St. Louis and New York. Cleveland finished
below the Sox.
New names on the roster were Breton, Alcock
and Baker, infielders; Demmitt, Both and Daly,
outfielders; Mayer, catcher, and Lathrop, Faber
and Wolfgang, pitchers.
Despite their lowly standing the Sox again
defeated the Cubs in the city series, four games
Clarence Rowland at the helm Collins and Jack-
son make Comiskey poorer by $130,500 Two years
without poker Story of the Federal League war
Charles Weeghman "sits in" Sox win American
League pennant Whip the New York Giants for
the world's title.
Comiskey entered upon a new era in baseball
just prior to the season of 1915. He went to the
" sticks " for a manager and to the majors for
players, completely reversing his policy of former
years. In Dubuque, Iowa, he dug up Clarence
H. Rowland, who in the previous season had
piloted the Peoria team of the * l Three I ' ' League.
Jimmy Callahan, disappointed over the showing
of the team, had resigned, and the * * busher ' ' took
the helm. In three years, aided by an unlimited
bank roll, he was destined to win a pennant and
a world's championship for the man who discov-
Up to this time Comiskey had spent more for
minor league players than both of his ball parks
had cost him. Few had made good. With the
202 " Commy "
change of administration he decided to take
another tack. He would go after the finished
product. Coincident with this resolution Connie
Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics was meditat-
ing the breaking up of his famous combination
of pennant winners. Comiskey heard of it and
acted. Catching a fast train for the east, in com-
pany with Ban Johnson, he closed the deal for
Eddie Collins, sensational second baseman of
The transaction set a record. Before Comiskey
had succeeded in signing the keystone star, who
had doubled in baseball and logic at the Columbia
University, his bank account had been reduced
to the extent of $65,000. Connie Mack received
$50,000 and Collins was given a bonus of $15,000
for attaching his signature to a five-year contract
which called for $15,000 a year.
Later in the season, with the Cleveland club in
the hands of the bankers, " Commy " sent his
secretary, Harry Grabiner, to the Forest City with
instructions to buy Jackson, to fame known as
" sockless Joe,'* and one of the leading hitters
in the league.
" How far will you go? " asked Grabiner as he
was handed the signed but otherwise blank check.
" The blank space is for you to fill in," was
Comiskey 's response.
Purse Strings Are Untied 203
Jackson was signed. The men who had the club
in charge were given a check for $31,500 and an
option on three players. After this had been exer-
cised the Sox owner scratched from his books
Chappelle, who had cost him $18,000 ; Bobby Roth,
who stood him $11,000, and Edward Klepfer,
originally bought for $5,000. The total made $65,-
500, and another new record had been set.
Having plugged up his infield and outfield with
major league talent Comiskey took a $12,000 jour-
ney into the minor leagues. In the American
Association a Milwaukee youth by the name of
Felsch, christened " Happy " by the fans on
account of his sunny disposition, had been burn-
ing up the league with his hitting and outfield-
" How much? " wired Comiskey to the owners
" You may have him for $12,000," came the
Comiskey hauled out his check book and Felsch
became a member of the White Sox. He imme-
diately proceeded to set the American League on
fire as he had scorched the Association. He was
not in Speaker's, Cobb's or Jackson's class as a
hitter at the start but he could show each some
pointers on how to field. Throwing the ball like
a rifle shot unerringly from deep center to the
204 " Commy "
plate without being set for the heave was one of
his accomplishments and many maintain that as
a center fielder he has no superior.
Although Felsch had few weaknesses on the
ball field he had a failing while in civilian attire.
" Happy " insisted in staying in every pot in the
royal game of draw, a procedure which tended to
a wide distribution of the contents of his pay
envelope twice a month. Manager Rowland con-
cluded that continually drawing two cards to a
flush or repeated efforts to fill inside straights
would, in time, cloud his sunny disposition, and
he shut down on the game. For two years the
White Sox went pokerless, except for a brief
interval, a predicament in which no club had ever
found itself before or probably since.
Managerial dictum having banished the paste-
boards temporarily the players themselves,
shortly afterwards, made the unusual departure
from established customs permanent. Rowland
had reinstated the 25-cent limit game after he had
exacted a promise from Felsch that the latter
would be more circumspect in calling for cards,
but the life of the game was limited to half a .
dozen sessions. Buck Weaver had a bad even-
ing, dealt some harsh comments along with the
cards, remembered them the next day and came to
the conclusion that the indoor pastime might
Purse Strings Are Untied 205
affect his playing outdoors. The morning follow-
ing Buck canie to the manager with this proposal :
" If you see me in another game of poker
before August 1 fine me $100."
" That goes for me, too," echoed half a dozen
With the period of grace up the Sox were in
the thick of the pennant fight and as no one started
to shuffle the cards the ban held for the balance
of the season. An exception should be noted,
however. A regular game was always going on
in the rear of the Pullman when the team was on
the road. It went under the term of " paresis "
with the deuces and joker wild and the players
twice as riotous. Eddie Collins was the
' * banker ' ' and the stakes sometimes went as high
as a dime if somebody raised the plunger who
Nemo Liebold was separated from the Cleve-
land club during the 1915 season by Comiskey.
Nemo, besides being a hard man to pitch to, was
the fortunate possessor of a " baby stare " in,
the indoor pastime, a great asset while the game
lasted. Eddie Murphy pried himself loose from
Connie Mack's slipping champions in order to
have the privilege of sitting in with his former
teammate, Eddie Collins. Add Quinlan, Johns
and Brief and the recruits are accounted for.
206 " Commy "
Inability to get an even break in the series with
Boston, Detroit and Washington during the sea-
son put the White Sox in third place despite the
outlay of over $150,000 for players. Boston and
Detroit finished ahead of the Sox, while Washing-
ton, New York, St. Louis, Cleveland and the Ath-
In the fall series with the Cubs the Sox, as had
become their habit, won easily, capturing four out
of five games. With the final game the West Side
Ball Park ceased to be a battle ground for the two
rival teams. During the following winter Charles
W. Murphy sold the Cubs to Charles H. Weegh-
man, who combined them with his Federal League
team, thus bringing to a close the experiment of
trisecting Chicago's baseball map. The North
Side now became the permanent home of the new
Mr. Weeghman, who succeeded Mr. Murphy as
president of the club, was a Chicago business man,
fan and good fellow, and had been one of the prin-
cipal figures in the Federal League war which
raged during 1914 and 1915. As the " outlaw '
league had but little influence on the fortunes of
the White Sox only a brief outline of its history
will be given in these pages.
The league was founded on the theory that
" money will make the mare go." Its promoters
Purse Strings Are Untied 207
originated the perambulating bank which con-
sisted of a satchel crammed with $1,000 bills. It
was carried around the country guarded by Jim
Gilmore, president of the league, John B. Ward
of Brooklyn, Phil. Ball of St. Louis and Charles
H. Weeghman of Chicago. Whenever a draft on
major league talent was made the satchel would
be opened and the contents would be dumped in
the. center of a table. If this did not make an
impression on the player the promoters took the
Fabulous salaries were offered. Some were
accepted. Walter Johnson, under contract to the
Washington club of the American League, was
tendered a three-year contract by President
Weeghman at $20,000 a year. Ty Cobb, Tris
Speaker and others were offered as much.
Speaker, who was a member of the Comiskey-
McGraw world tour party, was apprised of his
good fortune through a cablegram which finally
caught up with him at Paris. Through an acci-
dent the message fell into the hands of John
McGraw and the cat was out of the bag. The
cables sizzled back and forth. The Giants' man-
ager conferred with Comiskey. The latter
refused to get excited.
" I don't see why I should interfere," asserted
the * * Old Roman. " "If there is a bunch of men
208 " Commy "
who wants to lose a lot of money in baseball it is
none of my business. My club will be in Cali-
fornia training camp on the scheduled date and
I expect that most of the players will show up
Comiskey's prediction came true. Not a single
regular player jumped the White Sox for the Fed-
erals. They all reported on time. Afterwards it
turned out that a secret agreement had been made
not to " monkey " with Commy 's players.
11 The man who whipped the National League
should be let alone," was the advice of President
This, however, did not prevent the " Fed "
magnates from having a reception committee of
their own when the Lusitania arrived in New York
with the tourists. The rivalry of organized and
unorganized baseball owners to get in touch with
the players on board assumed an opera bouffe
character. Each feared for the " evil " counsel
of the other. Both were equally anxious to set
the player " right "as to the real situation. All
tried to reach the ship at quarantine. The organ-
ized baseball forces won and plowed their way
through a snow storm on a revenue cutter to the
big liner. This maneuver postponed the opening
of the " satchel " until the players landed.
The pickings from the world tour bunch was
THE first real present for the Sox fans was Eddie Collins. Miss
South Side is proudly toting the $50,000 beauty home, led by the
Old Roman. Cartoonist Sidney Smith gives a hint of other gifts to
follow in the armful of packages carried by " Commy." He guessed
rightly. Joe Jackson was among them.
Purse Strings Are Untied 209
comparatively small as only four out of twenty-
three players joined the third league.
The raid for the rest of the season was confined
mostly to the National League. When it came to
territory, there was opposition in only two Amer-
ican League cities while the National had to con-
tend against four rival clubs. Chicago, St. Louis,
Pittsburgh and Brooklyn were the major league
cities invaded. Indianapolis, Baltimore, Buffalo
and Kansas City made up the rest of the circuit.
Indianapolis, which had also won the pennant in
a much restricted Federal League circuit in 1913,
captured the flag in 1914. Chicago was second.
The only cities in which the Federals actually
built for the future were Chicago and Brooklyn.
In each steel and concrete stands were erected and
the plants compared favorably with the best in
The fight was continued during the season of
1915, in which year Chicago carried off the pen-
nant. President Gilmore dug up more and more
" millionaires " and the contents of the satchel
were always in the center of the table. In the
heat of the battle, during the middle of the sea-
son, it was decided to sign some of Comiskey's
players. The effort proved a complete failure.
The players stuck to the " Old Roman." Before
the end of the season came overtures for peace.
210 " Commy "
At its close a peace agreement was reached, the
major leagues taking over the players and certain
properties of the Federal.
The experiment of a third league proved a
colossal failure. The losses incurred by all three
organizations were enormous. It was claimed that
John B. Ward had put nearly $700,000 into the
Federal venture. Others contributed in propor-
tion to their wealth or enthusiasm for the cause.
The losses of organized baseball consisted mostly
in a lessened attendance, defection of players and
the obligations assumed at the settlement.
Prior to the peace agreement the Federal League
had entered suit against the two major leagues
which was heard by Judge Kenesaw Mountain
Landis, in the Federal Court at Chicago. The
fight was made principally on the " reserve
clause," a rule which bound the player to a par-
ticular club, until released. Decision was never
rendered, Judge Landis at various times hinting
that if he should be compelled to cut the Gordian
knot the entire baseball structure would crumble.
It was during the hearing that Judge Landis
handed down the opinion that baseball must be
regarded as a " national institution."
No player from his club having jumped during
the hostilities Comiskey did not profit by the
return of the prodigals when the agreement was
Purse Strings Are Untied 211
signed and at the beginning of the 1916 season
two infield positions were still " vacant." Jack
Ness, Fred McMullin and Zeb Terry were signed
to try for them. Claude Williams and Dave Dan-
forth were added to the pitching staff, while the
veteran John Lapp became change catcher.
Principally due to Eddie Cicotte's wonderful
work in the box the team landed in second place
after a terrific battle with Boston clear down to
the wire, with Detroit only a few points behind.
Below the Tigers were New York, St. Louis,
Cleveland, Washington and Philadelphia in order
Although the Cubs had changed owners their
luck had not and the fall series with the White
Sox was a mere formality, the Americans winning
four straight games.
The race in 1916 had been close enough to give
the fans a foretaste of what was coming, and the
followers of the Sox were vociferous but not sur-
prised when Comiskey, after a wait of eleven
years, ' ' arrived ' ' in 1917. It was his fourth flag
in the American League. When he defeated the
New York Giants he hung up his third world's
The Sox had had a hard fight in their own
league and were pursued by Boston clear to the
end. Nearest to the Red Sox were Cleveland,
212 " Commy "
Detroit, Washington, New York, St. Louis and
Philadelphia in order.
Beginning the 1917 season Comiskey, having
tried ever since the release of Jiggs Donohue to
plug the hole at first base, eventually succeeded,
and Chick Gandil, purchased from Cleveland, at
last rounded out the team. Eddie Cicotte's phe-
nomenal pitching did the rest and the team fin-
ished with 100 games won and 54 lost. Charles
Kisberg was added to the infield and Byrd Lynn
to the catching staff.
Envious rivals insisted that the White Sox rode
to the front on Cicotte's mysterious " shine ball,"
a delivery which blinded some of the greatest
sluggers in the league. The ' ' jump ball ' ' of Dave
Danf orth also served to clutter up President John-
son 's desk with horsehide exhibits. Protests,
strategy boards and chemical analysis, all failed
and the riddle remains unsolved.
With the flag clinched the Sox were primed
for the grand windup. The Giants had ridden
rough shod over the rest of the contenders in the
National League and had won the bunting in their
own organization with a trifle greater ease than
had Chicago. John McGraw, Comiskey 's world-
tour partner, was in command of New York's best.
It was the Napoleon of the game against the
" busher " and fortune favored the " unknown."
Purse Strings Are Untied 213
Six games, equally divided between mediocrity
and brilliancy, were played, and of these the
White Sox won four. The first two were played
in Chicago. The home club won both, by the
scores of 2 to 1 and 7 to 2.
Brilliant pitching by Eube Benton helped to
shut out the White Sox 2 to in the first game
at New York. Schupp repeated in the second, on
the same field, the Giants winning 5 to 0, and the
series stood at evens. Chicago took the next at
home 8 to 5 and clinched the championship by
annexing the sixth and last contest on the Polo
Grounds, by the score of 4 to 2.
Featuring newspaper " leads " the morning
after the final game, was the thrilling narrative
of a footrace between Heinie Zimmerman and
Eddie Collins, a sprint which practically decided
the winner. It happened in Chicago 's half of the
fourth inning. Zimmerman, playing third base
for New York, made a wild throw to first on
Collins and the Chicago captain reached second.
Joe Jackson lifted a fly to Robertson, who
dropped the ball, and Collins ran to third.
When Felsch hit to Pitcher Benton, Collins pur-
posely made a bluff at going home. Benton,
observing the maneuver, ran towards the third
base line to turn Collins back, eventually throwing
to Zimmerman. Catcher Eariden, in the mean-
214 " Commy "
time, had run up the line leaving the plate unpro-
tected. Collins, sizing up the prospects, darted
towards home. Zimmerman was now in the unen-
viable fix of being unable to let go of the ball as he
had no one to throw it to. It was up to him to tag
Eddie. His lack of speed, as the $50,000 beauty
romped home, furnished the material for the
ditty, " You can't catch me, Heinie Zim."
Fate has set apart a " goat " in every world's
series. Zimmerman became the burden bearer in
the 1917 title clash, but undeservedly so. Critics,
after a second sober thought, could devise no
strategy which would have relieved Heinie of the
responsibility which had been thrust upon him by
If artistically the games fell below par the finan-
cial returns were on a scale which had been
exceeded but once before the Boston-New York
series of 1912. The side embellishments ranged
from baked muskies to special trains. Of the lat-
ter Comiskey had five, two for the rooters to and
from New York for the third and fourth games
and three for players and newspaper men on each
trip between the two cities.
The receipts for the six games were $425,000.
Comiskey 's share was in the neighborhood of
$100,000. In 1885, in his first world's series
experiment the total taken in at the gates
Purse Strings Are Untied 215
amounted to $2,000, but he enjoyed his portion a
great deal more than he did thirty-two years later.
There were no ticket problems and no scalpers in
After the series Comiskey was a candidate
for the sanitarium. Approximately 200,000
clamored for the privilege of buying tickets for the
first game. There were only 32,000 seats.
With the Sox the world's champions the fans,
of course, forgot all about their inability to get
the requisite number of pasteboards. They started
rooting for next season the minute the last ball
had been pitched. They would have done the
same had their favorites lost. I happened to be
at the Sox Park a few days after the series had
ended. A ' ' hey there, ' ' from outside brought the
office force to the windows fronting on Thirty-
fifth street. A coal wagon had been halted.
" Joe Jackson coming back next season? "
shouted the grimy charioteer.
" And Ci-cot-tee? "
" Great. The boys around the yard wanted to
know! Giddap," and the horses disappeared
under the viaduct.
Shot to pieces by enlistments and drafts the
White Sox failed to make any kind of showing
216 " Commy "
during the season of 1918. After a bumpy race
they finished sixth, Boston winning the pennant
with Cleveland, Washington, New York and St.
Louis ahead of the Sox in order named, Detroit
and Philadelphia alone barring the way to the
cellar. Owing to the frequent departure of
players no real effort could be made to plug up
the holes and of the dozen recruits signed only
one or two came up to the mark.
With the opening of the 1919 season a new
manager was given command of the White Sox.
Clarence Rowland had become a stockholder in
the Milwaukee American Association club and
" Kid " Gleason, who had with the exception of
one season acted as coach since 1912, took charge.
Gleason is of the old school of baseball but is not
the ' ' Kid ' ' of the former St. Louis Browns. The
Sox manager started in as a pitcher and later
became a star infielder.
Gleason is the optimist among managers and
possesses the faculty of being a Simon Legree
without the players finding out about it. His
admirable personal traits, rugged honesty and
aggressive tactics have made him one of the most
popular leaders the Sox ever had.
Early in the season of 1919 the White Sox,
under the brilliant leadership of Gleason, took
their rightful place in the sun. They forged to
Purse Strings Are Untied 217
the front and stayed there. They ceased to be
the " hitless wonders " and became the hitting
terrors of the league. In team batting they passed
the .280 mark on different occasions, leading the
league practically throughout the season. Their
defensive work was equally as brilliant, the team
being near the front row most of the time.
The feat of acting as pacemakers for the greater
part of the season was enough to set them apart
from other combinations, past or present. As a
fighting aggregation they were in a class by them-
selves. Coming from behind and winning became
The players who found their stride after the
disastrous 1918 season were familiar to the Sox
fans. The old faces were back. Most of the new
ones decorated the bench. Pitcher Richard Kerr
was the exception. This sterling twirler, bought
from the Milwaukee American Association team,
did yeoman service for a pitching staff which had
been counted woefully weak but which, at the
finish, held its own against all comers. Cicotte
* ' repeated. ' ' Claude Williams came back. Later
on were added the veterans George Lowdermilk,
Erskine Mayer and Bill James. Urban Faber
had a hard time getting in condition. Benz, Rus-
sell and Shellenback were missing.
Schalk did the catching and rang up a record
218 " Commy "
of catching in 100 games per year in six consecu-
tive years. The playing of Gandil, E. Collins,
Weaver, McMullin and Risberg in the infield was
the sensation of the league. Equally brilliant
were the performances of Jackson, Felsch, Lie-
bold and John Collins in the outfield.
Comiskey watched the team month after month
and near the waning of the season could say that
the White Sox were then the greatest team he
ever had anything to do with.
" It is a wonderful combination the greatest
team I ever had," he said. " I can't pick out
individuals because they are all giants in base-
ball. It is by all odds the greatest team in the
American League. I couldn't pass a higher com-
pliment. I can afford to single out one, Kid Glea-
son, because he is a manager. He has kept pace
with the team and that means something.
"It is the best bunch of fighters I ever saw.
No game is lost until the last man is out. They
can think for themselves which is still better. To
say that I am proud of them is putting it mildly.
They have been setting the pace most of the time
and no other team deserves being in front more
DIG SPIKES IN FIVE CONTINENTS
Comiskey and McGraw start on a long journey
Many lands get a glimpse of the Sox and Giants
World's tour consumes 142 days High jinks on
the sea Nation's great in the receiving line
Hard task is assigned Statue of Liberty.
"While winning championships for Chris von der
Ahe, Comiskey had dreamed of touring the world
with a baseball team. When A. G. Spalding antici-
pated him in 1888 the manager of the Browns was
disappointed but not broken-hearted. He would
bide his time, but then and there he decided that
he would head his own team when the omens were
propitious for the journey. He had been one of
the first to get an invitation from Spalding but
Von der Ahe objected and " Commy " stayed at
Fortune having smiled on his undertakings he
was ready to start in 1913. He had contemplated
an earlier getaway. In fact the trip was the
consummation of seven years of preparation.
Immediately after winning the world's champion-
220 " Commy "
ship in 1906 " Commy " had announced that a
world's tour was the next thing on the program.
All he needed was a partner, It took him seven
years to get one. Financial considerations had
not figured, as the White Sox owner had let it be
known that he would assume all the responsibili-
ties. This he didn't have to do, as John Mc-
Graw, manager of the Giants, had persuaded the
owners of the New York club to permit him to
" borrow " the team for a trip.
It has been erroneously stated that the stock-
holders of the Gotham club backed McGraw.
Nothing is farther from the truth. John McGraw
took all the risk himself and it meant pledging
his entire fortune. McGraw knew nothing about
the intention of Comiskey to bear all the losses,
if any, for both teams. His gameness, however,
was appreciated and by none more than Comiskey.
The plans for the journey were perfected dur-
ing the summer of 1913, and advance agents sent
on ahead. The arrangements included special
trains and other specialties. The best hotel accom-
modations that could be obtained were contracted
for the world around. The sky was the limit and
long before the season was over the obligations
assumed approached the $100,000 mark. Solici-
tous friends of both promoters became anxious.
Experienced globe trotters were free with their
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 221
advice. A fortune would be lost if the elaborate
plans were persisted in.
" Too bad I wasn't told that before I handed
the steamship company my check for $90,000,"
said Comiskey with a smile.
To make certain that he would have enough for
emergencies the " Old Koman " bought a letter
of credit for 25,000 pounds sterling, approximately
$121,000. McGraw carried a more modest account,
but at that ample for all contingencies.
The interval between the departures of the first
and second world tourists measured twenty-five
years, lacking a day. Spalding and his party
headed through the Golden Gate Nov. 18, 1888;
Comiskey and McGraw with their White Sox and
Giants, sailed from Seattle Nov. 19, 1913. Japan,
China and the Philippines had been outside the
itinerary of the original globe trotters. The
twentieth century tourists were to exhibit before
the little brown men of the Mikado's kingdom,
the almond-eyed celestials and before the
reformed head hunters of Uncle Sam 's island pos-
sessions. They would not get a glimpse of Mauna
Loa nor get a chance to entertain the Maoris
of New Zealand, but to make up for these geo-
graphical misses, America's national game would
be expounded to Nipponese and Chinese, Moro
222 " Commy "
Differing from the first world tour, there was no
uncertainty as to the lanes to be followed. The
first travelers had originally contemplated only
a trip to the Antipodes. It was not until the
party reached Australia that it was determined
to complete the circle.
Comiskey and McGraw had mapped out every
foot of the journey weeks before they left Chicago.
They never deviated a hair's breadth from the
schedule with the exception of cutting their stay
in Japan short three days, due to failure of the
ship to arrive on time. There were round-the-
world tickets for 67 people in the hands of the
secretaries at the start. One of these had seen
enough salt water on the way to Yokohama and
decided to stick to land as much as possible. Tak-
ing the overland trip through Siberia he met the
party at Naples three months later. Another one
was originally booked only as far as Japan and
this left 66 for the ' ' round trip. ' '
The two trips were also dissimilar in another
important respect aside from the route followed.
While the primary reason for Spalding's jaunt
was to introduce baseball to the benign in foreign
lands, advantage was taken of the opportunity
to show the superiority of America's sporting
goods. There was nothing reprehensible in this,
but the commercial touch marked the contrast.
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 223
Comiskey and McGraw made their pilgrimage dis-
tinctly a " sporting " proposition.
Perhaps the disinterested motives influenced
the great of the earth to treat the visitors as
official emissaries of the great American repub-
lic. Thus the " Old Roman " and his partner
were congratulated on their enterprise and on the
game by the highest in the Mikado's government.
Shanghai and Hongkong gave them their best.
The keys of Manila were theirs. Lord Denman,
governor general of Australia, not only enter-
tained the pilgrims in his official mansion, but in
addition was initiated into the mysteries of the
curve. The Khedive of Egypt personally thanked
" Commy " and McGraw for their visit to the
land of the Sphinx. The Italian government was
equally solicitous as was the French, which turned
over the nationally owned Longchamps race track
in Paris for the game, which, however, was not
As a climax to ovations which belted the globe
came verbal congratulations from the head of the
greatest empire on earth, King George V of Eng-
land, after he had witnessed a sensational eleven-
inning game in London.
Aside from national recognition there was not
a city or state visited which was not lavish in its
hospitality. Dennison, Texas, staid up nearly
224 " Commy "
all night for a chance to entertain the tourists;
Osaka, Japan, bestirred itself at dawn in order
to show its appreciation. Eeceptions and ban-
quets followed each other with bewildering fre-
quency and eight months ' training alone saved the
athletes from wreck on gastronomic shoals.
In the United States the players were on the
road 33 days. About that number of banquets
were tendered. Train schedules knocked out a
few. The athletes stood up manfully to the bal-
ance, even though groggy when they encountered
a 125-pound cake, donated by a railroad company,
at Seattle. By the time they had run the gauntlet
of another score or so abroad, the party had come
to the conclusion that the warmth of the greetings
had nothing to do with the size of the town. The
ceremonies in Blue Rapids, Kansas, were as im-
pressive as were those in London, even though the
world's metropolis had the bulge on the gold lace.
As for the game itself, the players soon dis-
covered that all the enthusiasm was not confined
to the states. They encountered as much noise
in Tokio as they had under the lee of Coogan's
Bluff and the racket which greeted the tourists in
Manila developed as much lung power as did the
most approved concert on a busy day in the bleach-
ers at Comiskey's Park.
Native China, alone, showed reserve. When it
/^ HARLES A. COMISKEY has the distinction of being the first
V^/ club-owner to use special trains to carry his players across the
country. In this wintry picture, " Commy " is shown standing in the
snow of Chicago just before the White Sox palace-on-wheels left on the
spring training trip. Standing to the right of the Old Roman is James
J. Callahan; at the left is " Big Ed " Walsh. The sign on the observa-
tion car advertises the " cargo " and its destination.
These specials were renowned not only for the luxuriousness of
their fittings, but also for the sumptuous assortment of food and drink
provided by the Old Roman. The dispatchers ran the trains on special
schedules which permitted the travelers to " visit " on the way.
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 225
comes to needless exertion, be it in noise or by
muscle, the follower of Confucius hires a sub-
stitute. Perhaps the fact that the only game
pulled off in the Flowery Kingdom was played in
" Happy Valley," on the edge of a betombed
hillside from which it gets its name, had some-
thing to do with the subdued greetings from the
Shanghai, which figured earlier in the itinerary,
undoubtedly would have made the boys feel at
home had a game been possible. They had pre-
pared for our coming for weeks and many had
trained for the big event until it was hard to tell,
when we arrived in a drizzle, whether they were
wetter on the outside than inside. A couple of
American warships were anchored in the river
and it was easy to surmise that Jack Tar would
not have permitted the staging of a funeral.
Australia was genuinely cordial but not exu-
berant. Cricket enthusiasm, the ne plus ultra
in cheering, predominated despite the fact that
New South Wales alone boasts of several base-
ball leagues. In Ceylon, Hindu and Parsee,
Mohammedan and Singhalese, gathered in large
numbers to gaze and marvel. At Cairo the
Bedouin removed himself to a safe distance,
squatted on his haunches, entrusted his soul to
Allah and silently awaited the finish.
226 " Commy "
What the descendants of the Caesars thought
we never had an opportunity to find out as rain
blotted out the games scheduled for the Eternal
City. At Nice the Gaul contributed an abundance
of " vivas," but the mercurial Parisian was given
no chance to berate the umpire as it never stopped
raining while we were there.
How the English regarded the game we knew.
Back in 1874, before the National League was
organized, teams from Boston and Philadelphia
had visited Great Britain. The cheering had been
subdued and the enthusiasm was only slightly
accentuated when Spalding's tourists invaded the
island fifteen years later. The Prince of Wales,
later Edward VII, lent social glamor to the sport
in 1889. The accounts do not show that the prince
was excessively demonstrative, even though inter-
ested. Twenty-five years later his son, then the
king and emperor, permitted the royal smile to
grow into a laugh as he watched the antics of
coachers and rooters. Thirty thousand British-
ers laughed with him. George applauded and the
cheers of Norman and Saxon circled the field. A
thaw had set in after a quarter of a century.
As has been pointed out, it had been no sudden
decision on Comiskey's part to visit the farthest
corners of the globe in order to have two repre-
sentative baseball teams rub elbows with coolie
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 227
and king. Only the plan was matured during the
season of 1913. ' ' Commy ' ' approached McGraw
on the subject. The manager of the Giants was
busy winning the bunting in the National League.
Comiskey had high hopes of duplicating the per-
formance in the American. Two pennant winners
were bound to make a stir and so the agreement
was made. Comiskey failed to land the flag. Had
he won the White Sox would have gone intact.
Only seven of those making the trip wore white
stocking's the season following. Of these six were
under Comiskey and one took orders from
McGraw. James J. Callahan, manager ; Jim Scott,
Joe Benz, Thomas D. Daly, Andrew Slight and
George Weaver made up the bona fide members.
Urban Faber had signed a contract with the Sox
but was turned over to the Giants for the trip.
The balance of * * Commy 's ' ' team was composed
of Sam Crawford, Detroit Tigers; Steve Evans,
St. Louis Cardinals; Tris Speaker, Boston Red
Sox ; Richard J. Egan, Cincinnati Nationals ; Wal-
ter F. Leverenz, St. Louis Browns; John J. A.
Bliss, Pacific Coast League; Herman Schaefer,
Manager McGraw picked from his own team
Larry Doyle, Bunny Hearne, George R. Wiltse,
Fred Merkle and James Thorpe. From outside
the home circle he, obtained Lee Magee and Ivy
228 " Commy "
Wingo of the St. Louis Cardinals; Hans Lobert
and M. J. Doolan of the Philadelphia Nationals,
and Urban Faber from the White Sox. Mike Don-
lin, famous league star, forsook the footlights and
joined McGraw's troupe.
The National Commission assigned William J.
Klem from the National League and John F. Sher-
idan from the American as umpires. The games
were played under Commission rules and the
umpires had power to discipline the players as
they saw fit. The arbitrators ruling with an iron
hand, the playing rivalry was as bitter as during
the regular season.
Tris Speaker represented the sentiment of the
players in this respect when, after a tough break
for the Sox in the game at Hongkong, he gave
voice to this protest :
" This trip would have been a great success
if we had only dropped the umpires overboard
in the middle of the Pacific."
The tour began Oct. 17, when the Sox left for
Cincinnati to meet the Giants in the first game,
which they lost 11 to 2. After the return engage-
ment at Chicago the Sox were not again to inhale
the ozone of the Great Lakes for 142 days.
The two teams left home in the finest special
train ever turned out. It consisted of six cars,
a combination buffet, a diner, an observation car
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 229
and three sleepers. In this hotel on wheels they
lived, with stationary intervals at Los Angeles
and San Francisco, until they reached Seattle.
During that time they zigzagged from Chicago to
central Illinois, through Iowa, Kansas, Missouri,
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, California,
Oregon and Washington.
Thirty-one games were played between Cincin-
nati and Puget Sound. Three days it rained. One
game was a tie and the athletes pulled into Seattle
with fifteen victories apiece. The players spent
twenty-three successive nights on the sleepers.
In between were wordy scraps on the field, ban-
quets and receptions. Due to the intense rivalry
one-half of the party hardly spoke to the other
when the steamer Empress of Japan was boarded
at Victoria, but the differences were wiped out in
the common sufferings of the next seventeen days.
In the number of people played to, the money
taken in and the enthusiasm displayed no trip
has ever equaled this world tour. Blue Rapids,
Kansas, a speck on the prairies and not much
more than that in the census register, turned over
$2,800 as its contribution. The town claimed a
population of 1,800. At San Francisco the fans
overflowed from the stands into the field. At Med-
ford, Oregon, the committee in charge insisted
on paying $1,000, despite protests of McGraw and
230 " Commy "
Oallahan for the privilege of seeing teams play
a few innings in pouring rain.
At Dennison, Texas, where no game was sched-
uled, members of the Elks' lodge with hundreds
of other townspeople, staid up until midnight in
order to shanghai the athletes. At Portland, Ore-
gon, the Chamber of Commerce staged a gilded
banquet and presented a silken American flag,
which was carried around the world and now has
a place of honor in the Woodland Bards' room at
No one set of players could stand the strain
on the trip overland and sustitutions were fre-
quent. Christy Mathewson and Chief Myers
served as a battery part of the time for the Giants.
Walter Johnson, the great pitcher of the Wash-
ington team, pitched for the White Sox at Tulsa,
Oklahoma. The appearance of the American
League speed king marked the one and only pitch-
ing duel between him and Christy Mathewson.
The result was a shutout of 6 to in favor of the
Sox, Matty being in poor condition.
On the Sox team at different times figured Hal
Chase, Doc White, Frank Isbell, Ray Schalk, Mor-
ris Bath, Lefty Russell, Walter Mattick and Joe
Berger. Snodgrass, Tesreau and Fromme helped
out the Giants.
The strenuous program on land and the monot-
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 231
onous turn of the propeller at sea required varia-
tions, as many of the players belonged to that
species which hates daylight. Cards furnished
the most acceptable amusement. Singing and
reading made up a part. Dancing attracted many.
Our national game of draw had the majority of
devotees. John McGraw was captain of the whist
crew, which on shipboard invariably included the
commander of the vessel. Bill Klem, Fred Mer-
kle, and Mike Donlin disturbed the serenity by
their pinochle game.
In one corner of the card room on ship were
found the " seven up " fiends. Jim Mullin, Tom
Lynch, Joe Farrell and Billy Buhl, all Chicago
business men, were the regulars. A seat was
always reserved for Comiskey, who, when well
enough to " sit in," always won, but never col-
lected, as at some time or other someone always
started a riot claiming " low," and this invari-
ably broke up the game.
Comiskey 's specialties were " seven up " and
' l hearts. ' ' He was equally keen on both. During
the years he served as manager of the Cincinnati
team he always spent his winters in Chicago. The
gathering place for the " boys " was Mike's back
room at Lytle and Twelfth streets. On one occa-
sion the usual party, according to " Commy,"
had been engrossed in the game for hours before
232 " Commy "
one of the players remarked on the shaky condi-
tion of the club room.
" I think Mike believes that the load he is
carrying is getting too heavy and he is fixing up
the foundation," suggested " Commy," as the
regular battle for the possession of the two spot
The jolting and groaning increased until a sud-
den lurch landed chairs, tables and players in
a corner of the room. Getting to their feet they
obtained the first glimpse of the landscape since
they had sat down. The back fence had disap-
peared and instead there was an unobstructed
vista of the street. Mike was moving to new quar-
ters, but, as they were regular customers he didn't
want to disturb them although, from force of cir-
cumstances, the service during the trip had been
somewhat irregular. The game was finished on
a new foundation.
Comiskey was a natural card player. Beside?
having that unique gift of " card sense " his
marvelous memory stood him in good stead.
Except in his younger days he never played poker,
or any other gambling game. He never has spec-
ulated, as he always insisted in having the goods
in plain view.
As the draft of both ball players and camp
followers for the world tour had been selective.
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 233
each was expected to render some particular serv-
ice, either on the ball field or in the reception
room. The heavy parts were assigned to Weaver,
Scott, Benz, Slight, Evans, Merkle and Schaefer
as singers. Evans and Schaefer also doubled in
comedy. Joe Farrell, plain tourist, was director
of * ' stunts. ' ' Norris L. 'Neill and Harry L.
Sparrow paid the bills, while Comiskey, Callahan
and McGraw absorbed the kicks. After each close
game Bill Klem and John F. Sheridan, as umpires,
played the role of outcasts. Before each contest
Klem was usually introduced as the world's great-
To Jim Thorpe and his girl bride belonged the
distinction of being the only real " native '
Americans in the party, an honor reflecting glory
on the tribe of Sacs and Foxes. Jap, Australian,
Hindu and Roman looked admiringly on the Indian
Apollo, the world's greatest individual athlete,
and one of the few who, on a certain occasion,
refused the invitation to chat with a king.
Others had specialties which they exhibited as
occasion offered, but those mentioned made the
big ' * noise. ' ' To the writer was assigned the task
of being the Boswell to the party and to serve as
foil to inquisitive foreign journalists. The events
here recorded, even though incomplete, have at
least the merit of being personal observations.
234 " Commy "
It was such a versatile bunch that boarded the
Empress of Japan, of the Canadian Pacific Steam-
ship line, at Victoria, B. C., on the evening of
Nov. 19, after a hurried trip from Seattle on a
coastwise steamer. Many were left at the dock
who wanted to go. A few were missing who had
been expected to accompany the party. Napoleon
Lajoie, one of the greatest second basemen and
batters that ever graced the game, had been orig-
inally slated to round out the Sox infield. Calla-
han approached him on the subject during the
" Clear around the world, did you say? '
" Sure. And you will be back in time for the
regular season," added Callahan by way of a
" Fine! I am with you, but I suppose it will
all be by land," cautiously inquired the Cleve-
Callahan, knowing Lajoie's aversion to the
vasty deep, explained that the bridge builders
had been slow in linking up the continents, but the
water trips would only be a hop, skip and jump.
" Too damp a prospect," was Lajoie's laconic
As the Cleveland manager would not even
accompany his team on the boat between Cleve-
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 235
land and Detroit during the playing season his
aversion to the deep might be appreciated. He
must have chuckled at the narrow escape while
reading how the Sox and Giants were bounced
from wave to wave for seventeen consecutive
President Comiskey, who had started touring
back in the Eighties, dodged the banquet trail
across the continent, and joined the teams in
San Francisco. With him was Mrs. Comiskey.
Lou Comiskey and his wife made a third bridal
pair in the party. Although not in the best of
health Mrs. C. A. Comiskey proved to be a good
sailor. As a mascot she upheld her reputation
as the White Sox did better than winning the
11 odd " in the final reckoning.
Anticipating the constitutional amendment on
sex equality and in honor of the " ladies' day,"
which had been inaugurated at the White Sox
Ball Park, nearly as many women as men were
included in the strictly tourist party. Of the
" baseball wives" there were Mrs. C. A. Comis-
key, Mrs. Lou Comiskey, Mrs. J. J. Callahan
and her mother, Mrs. D. Hardin, Mrs. John
McGraw, Mrs. James Thorpe, Mrs. H. Lobert,
Mrs. Samuel Crawford, Mrs. L. Doyle, Mrs.
George Wiltse and Mrs. W. J. Klem.
The rest of the roll call included Mrs. H. E.
236 " Commy "
Keough, Miss Margaret Callahan, Mrs. N. S.
McLean, Mr. and Mrs. James R. McAleer, Mr.
and Mrs. James J. Mullin, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph
C. Farrell, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Buhl, N. E.
McBride, Master Daniel Callahan, Ted Sullivan,
A. P. Anderson, Norris L. O'Neill, Thomas E.
Lynch, William Ryan, Frank T. Farrell, Harry
L. Sparrow, G. W. Axelson, James Hill, Albert
Kenney, Frank McGlynn, Victor Miller, Dr.
Frank Finley and Father McNamara.
After the strenuous transcontinental trip the
majority of the tourists were ready for a night's
rest after having boarded the " Empress." The
berths furnished the opportunity, but that was
all. Within twelve hours Father Neptune had
laid low four-fifths of the party. Joe Farrell
went along to furnish cheer and anecdotes to the
travelers. On the third day he dragged himself
to the wireless and sent to Chicago this mes-
sage: " All well except the passengers." He
did not exaggerate.
On the seventh day out I lost touch with land,
the last wireless message sent my newspaper
in Chicago having been forwarded from a dis-
tance of 1,800 miles. Then for almost eight days
we were " lost." Few cared, as it was blowing
between " 11 and 12 " most of the time.
In copying the log from Captain Dixon-Hop-
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 237
croft's records I innocently inquired what would
have happened had it blown " No. 13." The*
man who slept neither night or day, trying to
keep the ship afloat, wearily glanced in my direc-
tion, but that was all.
I related the incident to the first mate. He
also assumed a pained look but consented to
explain to a land lubber that 12 was the last
number in reckoning the velocity of wind, calm
Such unseemly behavior on the part of a
" peaceful ocean," although it floored most of
the athletes, did not entirely blot out the social
functions in the smoking room. While the table-
ware in the dining saloon was "racked " and the
chairs lassoed, there were always enough on hand
to enjoy the scenery and shuffle the cards.
Herman Schaefer, who shared with Nick Alt-
rock, up to the time he died last year, the honor
of comedian in chief of the ball field, was a steady
contributor to the game of draw. " The Dutch-
man," as he was best known to his friends, had
many peculiarities on and off the playing field.
In the indoor game he developed a violent antip-
athy against anyone who stayed on " shorts." It-
happened that Herman, who opened the pot with
a pair of aces and finished with " ups " was
beaten by Umpire Sheridan, who had drawn three
238 " Commy "
cards to a pair of fives. Schaefer tossed the deck
out of the window and left the table in high
dudgeon, vowing that he never would make good
his end of the pot, which amounted to $6. The
card room saw him no more that day, but he
dropped in on the boys the following morning.
Dumping a hat full of coppers in front of Sher-
idan he remarked: " Here's what I owe you."
The collection included everything in base metal
that went for currency the world around, and it
amounted to just $6, based on international
exchange as expressed in weight. Schaefer had
spent the better part of the day in collecting the
junk from white, black, Chink and Malay, and it
cost him twice as much as he originally owed
There was considerable rivalry between Evans
and Schaefer. Steve was a born imitator and a
wit of the first order. Returning to New York
after the trip he described to Jim Gilmore and
John B. Ward of the Federal League how he felt
when he first wore a silk hat on the trip. The
story made such a hit that the Brooklyn owner
signed him for twice as much as he could get from
the National League. On the ship from Free-
mantle to Suez he masqueraded as an English-
man and got away with it. In order to catch up
Schaefer, on his arrival at Nice, signed himself
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 239
on the hotel register as ' * Prince Henry. ' ' Every
bellboy in the place was at his beck and call, much
to the discomfiture of the rest of the guests.
Larry Doyle, one of the bridegrooms of the
party, was the chief practical joker. Larry was
responsible for the story of the two sets of
" fours." He detailed it around the world and
dwelt pathetically on the tragedy of the possessor
of two pairs of threes, who swallowed a six-inch
perfecto, ashes aand all, when, after a long siege,
he was given the privilege of gazing on four fives
in the hands of John Sheridan. The possessor of
the losing hand denies the yarn, as he did not
smoke during that particular period of the jour-
Occasionally the staid members of the party
joined in the fun. James Mullin and Thomas
Lynch, substantial men of business, figured in one
episode. With most everybody being " in " on
it except Ted Sullivan, the man who brought out
Comiskey, a game with loaded dice was arranged
between Mullin and Lynch. When the game was
over Lynch was ' * strapped. ' ' Ted was told about
it and went to " Commy." The latter knew noth-
ing about it, but scented a " frame-up," and told
Sullivan that the Captain should be informed.
The skipper listened to the sad tale and ordered
Mullin to the brig. Comiskey refused to inter-
240 " Commy "
fere and it took all of Sullivan's persuasive pow-
ers to get the captain to relent.
Umpire Klem was another victim. Just out
of Manila there had been much conversation on
what would happen when the ship should cross
the " line." Steve Evans publicly announced
an interview with the captain to the effect that the
speed of the ship would be increased as soon as it
had gone over the top at the equator as it would
be downhill the rest of the way unless the vessel
should be snagged by the * * line ' ' on the equator.
At the appointed time Steve rushed into the
smoking room and proclaimed that the ship had
practically stopped as it had been unable to hurdle
the line, which was now dragging on both sides.
Everybody rushed to the side of the vessel. Evans
insisted that Klem hung over the rail for two
hours looking for the equatorial tow.
Klem evened up on the way north. At the com-
ing on board of King Neptune, arrayed in all his
royal finery of sea weeds and burlap, some of the
umpire 's tormentors got the ducking of their lives,
much to the amusement of Miss Margaret Calla-
han and Master Daniel Callahan, children of the
manager of the Sox and official mascots.
Comiskey himself could not always join in
the festivities, as acute stomach troubles [not sea
sickness] robbed him of much of the pleasure on
WITH the departure of the White Sox and Giants on the world
tour, the well-wishes of the country went with them. Cartoonist
Briggs has caught the spirit of the leave-taking Uncle Sam at the
end of the pier gazing sort o' lonesome-like at the fading ship which
was to carry the tourists on the longest trip ever taken by a ball team.
Dig Spikes in Five Continents 241
the trip. He showed gameness to the core, how-
ever, by seldom missing a reception on land when
etiquette demanded his presence. He refused to
be floored until a world famous specialist at Rome
ordered him to bed. Whether, when he arrived
off Sandy Hook, he had the stormy days of the
Pacific in mind or the heroic doses of bismuth
administered at Borne, was not clear, but it must
have been one or the other, as each furnished an
impelling argument against leaving home.
Here and there a light could be discerned in the
distance through the snowy haze when John
McGraw sought out Comiskey.
" I want you to get up early in the morning,"
suggested McGraw. * ' I 'd like to have you see the
Statue of Liberty. ' '
" Think I will, John," answered the " Old
Eoman," " for if she looks me in the face again
she will have to turn around."
BASEBALL THRILLS FOR A KING
Governor General of Australia taught a new
" curve" Sir Thomas Lipton and Schaefer are
chummy Pilgrims meet the Pope Find a base-
ball fan in the Vatican Nine balls and three
strikeouts A rookie wins an eleven inning thriller
before a king A new toast.
The tour headed by " Commy " offered a les-
son in preparedness. It was like traveling by
megaphone on a rubber-neck wagon. All knew
where they were going and what was expected of
them when they got there. Social usages could
thus be adhered to and the members would leave
the impression that they had been born equally
to the purple and the homespun.
If conviviality was on the cards, good fellow-
ship would be on tap without stint ; if dignity bet-
ter comported to the surroundings, no one was
apprehensive of " breaks/' Each member had
been trained to his individual dress suit and top
hat. Occasionally a brain storm produced variety.
Nearing Japan one of the athletes came into
the dining room, direct from the sick ward,
Baseball Thrills for a King 243
arrayed in a swallow tail coat with all the trim-
mings down to the patent leather pumps but with
white stockings, embroidered on the instep with
a flaming monogram in blue.
On another occasion, in crossing the Mediter-
ranian, a pilgrim threw the German head steward
into spasms by appearing in " evening " dress
consisting of a claw-hammer coat, black vest, neg-
lige shirt, four-in-hand red necktie, white trous-
ers and slippers.
" Why did you do it? " asked an embarrassed
" To prove that it could be done," was the
As a matter of fact back of it was a con-
spiracy to make the custom of the English, in
dressing for dinner, look ridiculous. Adjusting
shirt . studs took too much time away from the
On land it behooved the visitors to be on their
guard when out of their baseball uniforms, as
there was hardly a mile covered where they were
not officially chaperoned. Arriving at quarantine
at Yokohama the party was met by the personal
representatives of the mayor and the Japanese
and American governments. They were consid-
ered guests of the nation until they departed from
244 " Commy "
At Hongkong not only did the English governor
turn over " Happy Valley," which was govern-
ment property and incidentally the only level
piece of ground on the island, for the game, but
the port authorities permitted the tourists to
leave the Empress of Japan and board the St.
Albans, after the former had sailed into the har-
bor with the yellow flag at its mast head. At
Manila Governor Harrison and Generals Frank-
lin J. Bell and H. P. McCain saw to it that noth-
ing was left undone for the visitors' comfort.
Beginning at Thursday Island, the northermost
landing place in Australia for ships taking the
route inside the great Barrier Beef, official and
private hospitality never missed a cog. At every
stop, city, state and commonwealth dignitaries
vied with each other in making the stay pleasant.
As games were played in the afternoons, recep-
tions were confined to mornings while banquets
held sway in the evenings, usually followed by
theatre parties. The fact that champagne and
cakes were served at the official receptions in the
city halls at Sydney and Melbourne immediately
after the " ham and " made a considerable
Speeches were the order everywhere. For the
tourists several members were adepts at the act.
The heavy work devolved on Callahan, McGraw
Baseball Thrills for a King 245
and Ted Sullivan. As Callahan, in " Gentleman
Jim," had capitalized his story telling ability on
the stage and as Sullivan had followed the pro-
fession of lecturer, many a host was given the
impression that we carried professional speech-
makers with us. McGraw was equally at home on
the platform and the party scored a perfect
average in this line. Comiskey, who had an aver-
sion to appearing in public, did not always escape.
What he had to say was usually taken down
In Melbourne Lord Denham, the governor gen-
eral and all-around good sportsman, entertained
the entire party, assisted by Lady Denham. Then
to show how Great Britain's representative in
the antipodes appreciated the visit he pitched the
first ball in the initial contest on the Melbourne
Cricket Club's grounds. He became enthusiastic
and inquisitive about the game and insisted on
learning all about the mysteries of pitching, he
himself being a star cricket player.
At Colombo, Ceylon, Sir Thomas J. Lipton
anticipated all others by sending a radio message
as soon as contact could be had with the steam-
ship Orontes, asking the party to be his guests
while on the island. He proved a capital host
and an unaffected and democratic good fellow.
Passing through the dining room of the Sox-
246 " Commy "
Giants ' hotel at dinner, the millionaire sportsman
espied Herman Schaefer, with others, at a table.
" Is everything all right," queried Sir Thomas.
" Tom, I never enjoyed myself more in my life,"
ejaculated the " prince," to the horror of high-
born Britons in the room.
" Herman, you are on for an automobile ride
after dinner, you know," was the ready response
of the knighted tea merchant, and everybody
Sir Thomas stuck to the finish. He went out
with the final boat load at midnight and the last
glimpse his guests had of the jolly Irishman they
saw him standing in a rowboat waving his hat and
trying to compete with the hoarse toots of the
siren as the Orontes picked its way out of the
Not much had been expected in Egypt and it
occasioned surprise when the khedive, Abbas
Hilmi II, appeared at the first game, played on
the grounds at Heliopolis. Abbas Hilmi laid aside
his royal reserve for the time being and talked
baseball. That someone had posted him in
advance was evident. Before he left, which was
in the seventh inning, he thanked Comiskey for
his visit and hoped that he could " come again."
If such should be the case Abbas probably would
not be among those present. A few months later
Baseball Thrills for a King 247
he fell on evil ways and picked the wrong side in
the great war.
Lord Kitchener, the Earl of Khartoum, who
was virtual viceroy of Egypt, was expected to
see the Sox and Giants in action, but at the last
minute, was compelled to send his regrets.
Many of the tourists being of the Catholic faith
it was but natural that the papal reception at
Rome should make a deep impression. The meet-
ing with Pope Pius IX was simplicity itself. After
a talk by Mngr. Kennedy of the American College
at Rome, the pilgrims were introduced and their
mission explained. The Holy Father listened
intently and the ceremony was concluded by the
blessing of the visitors.
The democratic ways of the papal secretary,
Cardinal Merry del Val, made a hit with every-
body. Here in the Vatican itself the members
of the party found a high dignitary of the church
able to converse with them not only in their own
tongue, but in the language of the diamond as
well. As proof of his intimate knowledge of the
^ame was a picture hanging on the wall in the
cardinal's apartments, showing him in baseball
" Yes, I thought I could play the game pretty
well once," said the cardinal. " I considered
myself useful in the infield on the college team
248 " Commy "
at Baltimore, and I suppose the manager agreed
for he kept me in the lineup quite a while."
Prior to the visit to Borne Comiskey had been
presented with a bronze statue of the Discus
Thrower, in Naples. This followed after a dele-
gation of sporting clubs had met the party at the
docks. The presentation speech was made by
Hall Caine, the English novelist, who was in
Naples at the time. On landing the party had
been met by Dr. John Edward Jones, United
States consul general at Genoa, who stayed with
the bunch until the French border was reached.
At Nice the players added to the gayety of the
world-famous carnival, which w T as at its height
when they arrived. They were given a promin-
ent place in the parade and were almost buried
under a shower of confetti.
Although no game could be played in Paris the
social conquest continued, a reception by Ambas-
sador Myron T. Herrick featuring the entertain-
ment. A banquet was tendered by Julius Kessler,
an American citizen residing in Paris.
In London reception followed reception, the
official luncheon at the Savoy Hotel rounding out
the day and night entertainments. At this ornate
affair official circles were represented by Lord
Desborough and' Lord Lonsdale while Consul
General Griffith responded for the United States.
Baseball Thrills for a King 249
Although personal gratification played a part
in the world tour, Comiskey insisted from the
beginning that the game would have to be the
thing. The trip, in his estimation, should accom-
plish two objects. In addition to introducing our
national sport into foreign lands the members
would also carry a message of international con-
cord. In this respect, were he inclined to stretch
a point, President Comiskey might look back with
pardonable pride to the coincidence that, of the
ten political entities visited, all were found on the
side of the Allies when the great test came.
Of advantage to the travelers, as well as lending
prestige to their comings and goings, was the aid
extended by the Washington administration. At
the direction of President Wilson, Secretary of
State William Jennings Bryan had, weeks in
advance, notified diplomatic and consular offices
in every city to be visited, to extend all the help
and courtesies possible.
Instructions of the promoters, issued at the
start, included a fiat against hippodroming on the
ball field. This was faithfully followed out but
the Keio University baseball team came to the
conclusion in the first international clash that the
dictum was not observed. The Sox had whipped
the Giants in the initial set-to on foreign soil before
as big a mob as had ever seen a game in Tokio.
250 " Commy "
Then it came the turn of the university team, the
best in Nippon, to defend the honors of the Mika-
Jim Scott, the man with the " round-house "
curve, was given the job of pitching for the
amalgamated team against the Japs. Scott had
been one of the sickest of the sick on the trans-
Pacific trip and it took several innings before
he could find his land legs. Consequently after
a strikeout Center Fielder Morri smote him for
a triple and Nyaka's single made run No. 1 for
Keio. Getting the first tally in the game against
what was regarded as the champion combination
of the universe so worked on the nerves of the
rooters that a madhouse would have furnished
the scenario for a lullaby in comparison. The
fact that the one run lead was wiped out in the
Sox half made no difference. They had scored
on a team which had come 7,000 miles to show
them how to play the game.
Eventually the Japs accumulated two more
runs while the Sox-Giants ran up sixteen. That
was deemed a fair ratio but the sting came in
the final inning, with Keio at bat. Scott, hav-
ing settled down, was in his best form and,
pitching just nine balls, struck out the side.
Nothing could be plainer than that the visitors
had been hippodroming in the other eight rounds.
Baseball Thrills for a King 251
Explanations having been made the entente cor-
diale was restored. The short stay was tri'
umphantly brought to a close when Fred Merkle,
in the third and final game, put the ball over
the left field fence, a feat that had been deemed
impossible by every follower of the game in Tokio.
It was also in that farewell performance that
the natives saw a play which McGraw insisted
was the greatest he himself had ever seen. It
was a peg from deep center field which caught
Mike Donlin coming in from third. Lobert had
hit a regular skyscraper, and Tris Speaker,
who had started to sprint with the crack of
the bat, picked the ball off a Nipponese top-knot
in the bleachers. Whirling without being set for
the throw he shot the ball to Jack Bliss at the
plate, who nailed the oncoming Mike by a step.
The out came near ruining the trip for Donlin,
who called on all the saints in the calendar to
bear witness to the fact that the ball which
killed him off was not the one which Lobert
Before every contest a " shadow game," in
which the players went through the motions
without the aid of a ball, was staged. This made
a big hit all the way from Chicago to London.
The Japs saw it before the first game and became
adepts at it before the second had been played.
252 " Commy "
It was the same with the Filipinos, but to the
matter-of-fact subjects of King George it proved
a puzzle to the end. At Brisbane two English-
men stood watching the antics of the players.
Both became deeply engrossed.
11 What celerity," remarked one.
" Bighto," interjected the other one. " I
cawn't even see the ball, you know."
The Japanese, true to their natural bent,
insisted on getting the hang of every trick. The
Filipinos proved as adaptive. Herman Schaefer
had the knack of throwing the ball behind his
back in any direction he desired. He gave an
exhibition of his skill at Manila. The following
forenoon the ball was similarly juggled on every
lot in the city and there were plenty of prairie
diamonds as, according to the chief of police, 200
games were played each Sunday.
Although there are some good Chinese ball
teams in various parts of the world the natives
stood in stolid silence and watched the perform-
ance in " Happy Valley," Hongkong. The yells
were furnished by thousands of sailors, repre-
senting practically every navy on earth. In the
forefront were American jackies, who had not
seen a game for a year.
Intermittent battles with the elements marked
the tour. The teams were wafted out of Shang-
Baseball Thrills for a King 253
kai on a midwinter monsoon. The second game
in Manila was played on a field that had been
six inches under water twenty minutes before
the game started. Drought prevailed in Aus-
tralia. In Borne and Paris the downpour never
let up and it was not dusty in London.
The playing fields proved much better than had
been expected. The cricket fields in Queensland,
New South Wales and Victoria furnished car-
peted playing surfaces. Other diamonds were
mostly of the " skinned ' r variety. On all, the
brand of ball was up to the standard. One of the
marvelous exhibitions was the last contest at
Manila, where an errorless seven-inning game
had been played on a field which resembled a
The first native team in Australia was encoun-
tered at Sydney. It " borrowed " Wiltse and
Wingo as a battery but lost 10 to 1 in a five-
inning game. In a seven-inning contest the fol-
lowing day a team composed entirely of home
talent went down to a 15 to 2 defeat. The score
of 18 to in favor of the Giants decorated
the board at Melbourne.
At Sydney the " Old Roman " tried his hand
at cricket. An expert handed up the ball.
" I should think I ought to be able to knock
the ball out of the lot with a paddle like that,"
254 " Commy "
remarked " Commy " as he took his place in
front of the wicket.
He did not " lose " the ball but retired with
the laurels of having protected his wicket.
A game had been scheduled at Freemantle,
West Australia, but on arrival the tourists dis-
covered that the local committee had forgotten
to make arrangements for a playing field. A
sight-seeing trip to Perth was taken instead, a
place where Comiskey enjoyed the distinction of
going broke. He had his letter of credit for
$121,000 and a $20 gold piece when he arrived.
When he tried to settle for dinner he proffered
the double eagle. Nothing like it had ever been
seen. He tried the bank. Being experts on the
yellow metal in this part of the world, which
produces a fair share of it, it was pronounced
gold but not currency. The bank finally took a
chance but nicked him $1.40 for the trouble.
Leaving the lone continent behind on Jan. 14
the next exhibition contest was put on at Co-
lombo a week later, without price but with a
lot of ceremony. The race track inclosure was
used for playing field. The ground was rough
and it rained part of the time. Sir Thomas Lip-
ton and the American consul said they enjoyed
it. The natives were non-committal.
It was a lazy journey from the land of tea
Baseball Thrills for a King 255
and cinnamon into the Red sea, which despite its
name didn't appear red after all to some of our
After having had a distant glimpse of the town
of Aden, the fourth continent in the itinerary,
brown and treeless, burst upon the view during
the latter part of January.
The prospect of playing before the Sphinx
impressed the globe trotters more than did the
privilege of pulling off a game before the khedive.
The morning after the pilgrims had landed at
Suez they stood before the mutilated but majes-
tic figure of the desert enigma.
" Whoever said we could stage a game here
must have been in league with the picture card
trust," said Comiskey as he surveyed the 30 by
40 playing field in front of the inscrutible one.
" That's one of Stoney Face's riddles," sug-
gested the scholarly Egan.
" Kidding us, I should say," added McGraw
as the moving picture brigade adjusted their
11 Well, let us go through the motions and kid
posterity," suggested Callahan, and through the
motions they went to the accompaniments of
clicking cameras and shouting donkey drivers.
That was as much of a game as has ever been
staged before the Sphinx.
256 " Commy "
Athletes and camp followers, having listened
to the ravings of Arab sheiks, explored the
pyramid of Giza to its innermost depths and
regretted the venture.
Bruised and weary the gazers on Egyptian an-
tiquities moved to the other side of the Nile six
miles beyond Cairo for two real ball games. The
first one went to a 3 to 3 tie in ten innings. It again
gave the lie to hippodroming as it was marked
by much confusion of tongues, the exposing of
family skeletons and a general truculency on
part of the players, each side now trying to get
the edge on games won.
A few white folks having missed the first
contest a second was staged the following day.
The Giants won 6 to 3 and pulled off a triple
play, the only one on the trip. Both games were
played on the Heliopolis grounds, a level expanse
of desert, the boundaries being marked by rows
of stately palms with a background of botanical
gardens, a handsome clubhouse and attractive
Only two games followed the two days' jour-
ney across the Mediterranean, which was made
on the German steamer Prinz Heinrich. The
short trip was marked by the absence of Umpire
Sheridan and the appearance of a pilsener brew.
Sheridan had missed the boat in the confusion
Baseball Thrills for a King 257
of embarkation at Alexandria and did not catch
up with the party until London was reached.
Those of Teuton extraction found some consola-
tion in the amber fluid.
With the game at Nice on Feb. 16, 1914, the
Sox and Giants had dug their spikes into five
continents. The lead remained with the former,
as Comiskey's crew won the game 10 to 9. With
the carnival program over and the drizzle of
Paris only a memory London alone remained on
After jockeying with uncertain weather con-
ditions it was finally decided to play Feb. 26.
The Chelsea Football Field, within the Stamford
Bridge grounds, which had been dedicated to
the game by Spalding's pioneers, was selected
as being the most suitable. Then loyal American
enthusiasts, led by John Lambert, George Grant,
now owner of the Boston Nationals, and others,
started to get court circles interested. They had
just twenty-four hours to do it in. As soon as
apprised of the game the king assured Ambas-
sador Page that he would be on hand. He was
there at the appointed time with thirty thousand
As it happened his majesty saw the greatest
thriller of the entire trip. Spectacular catches
followed prodigous swats, a home-run drive by
258 " Commy "
Tom Daly winding up the sensational contest in
the eleventh inning. It is a question as to what
impressed the king the more, the riotous rooting
of the Americans or the circus feats of the play-
ers. For the former he made use of Ambassador
Page as interpreter. He could make notes of
the stunts without any special help. The one-hand
catch by Magee of Speaker's terrific drive over
the running track in left field needed no explana-
tion. It was unnecessary to expound the beau-
ties of Daly's eleventh inning drive or. to explain
that it was the longest hit ever made within the
The mighty wallop spelled finis for a remark-
able baseball trip. It had been successful from
every angle and Comiskey had the satisfaction
of having piloted a team to victory during the
trip that was now in possession, of the globe
circling baseball title. " Commy 's " team ac-
cumulated a total of 24 wins; McGraw's crowd
drew 20. Fifty games had been played in all,
those with native teams making up the difference.
The winning hit in that closing contest was
made off Urban Faber, who had been loaned to
the Giants for the trip. No rookie had been put
to a more severe test than was the youngster
from Cascade, Iowa, Not only was it up to him
to hold his own against Jim Scott and Joe Benz,
Baseball Thrills for a King 259
veteran slabsmen, but in addition, he was pitch-
ing under the gaze of a monarch and a great crowd
of diplomatic notables.
Faber blamed himself for the defeat of his
team but McGraw did not. When next the
Giants and the Sox met, three and a half years
later, it was Faber again who held the spotlight.
By winning three out of six games from the
Giants for the White Sox, he added another
world's trophy to Comiskey's collection.
No game was ever more hard-fought than the
extra-inning tempest at London. Few had been
as sensational. Seldom had the spectators been
as numerous. The White Sox scored first two
runs in the third inning on singles by Evans,
Bliss and Weaver, and a base on balls to Scott.
Lobert's home-run to center, back of an error
by Schaefer on Magee 's grounder, made it a tie
in the fourth. For the Giants, first to bat in the
tenth, singles by Donlin and Magee, a sacrifice
hit by Lobert and a fielder's choice and an out,
brought two runs.
It appeared as if Broadway would have the
opportunity to celebrate, but Weaver, in the
Sox half, started to even it up with a single.
Egan went out on an infield tap. Speaker's
drive had the earmarks of a home-run but Magee,
sprinting as he had never done before, made a
260 " Commy "
leap in the air and speared the ball with one
hand. Disgusted, Speaker yelled:
" Yes, you lucky stiff. You tried that grand
stand play eleven times on the trip without mak-
ing it and now you pulled it off before a king."
Sam Crawford caused the second tie of the
game by sending the ball a trifle higher than had
Tris. There was no need to reach for this. It
never was found.
The Giants were blanked in their half of the
eleventh. Daly was the first up for the Sox. It
was rookie against rookie and royalty looked
on both. Faber tried to squeeze one by on the
inside. He made a poor guess. Where the ball
went no one cared. Donlin, in center field, took
one look at and made a break for the shower.
King and commoner arose, stretched and agreed
that they had seen " some game." His Majesty
told Ambassador Page that he had never enjoyed
an afternoon more. This he repeated to Comis-
key and McGraw through his chamberlain, who
conveyed the appreciation of the king to the
leaders of the tour at their hotel. Previously
he had shaken hands with both in the royal box
where he held a democratic pow-wow before the
The scorer did not wish to entrust the box
score to cricket-playing cable operators so the
Baseball Thrills for a King 261
complete statistics of the game are now given
for the first time:
WHITE Sox AB R H TB BB SH SB P A E
Magee, If ,
Lobert, 3b ,
Doyle, 2b ,
Merkle, Ib ,
Thorpe, rf ,
Total 38 4 8 12 3 3 *29 19 1
*Evans hit by own batted ball in 5th; none out when
winning run was scored.
Score by innings:
123456789 10 11
White Sox 002000000215
Giants 2 2 04
Two base hit Donlin. Home runs Crawford, Daly, Lobert.
Left on bases Chicago, 7; New York, 8. Hits Off Scott, 3 in
262 " Commy "
5 innings; off Benz, 5 in 6 innings. Struck out By Scott, 2;
by Benz, 4; by Faber, 1. Bases on balls Off Scott, 1; off
Benz, 2; off Faber, 2. Hit by pitcher Magee by Scott; Schae-
fer by Faber. Wild pitch Scott. Double plays Lobert to
Doyle to Merkle; Doyle to Doolan to Merkle. Time of game
1:50. Attendance, 35,000. Umpires William Klem and John
As the historic tour started so did it finish
in a riot of banquets. The Lusitania was warped
to its dock the morning of March 6. The even-
ing of March 7, eight hundred fans, including
many notables, crowded into the banquet hall
of the new Biltmore Hotel to do honor to the
returning wanderers. The "White Sox fans came
to New York in a special train. On arrival they
chartered a steamer for their own use, stayed up
all night and met the ocean liner at dawn.
Spurning sleep this heroic band of rooters,
representative of every section in the middle
west, took the Sox in tow on March 8, made a
record run to Chicago, where they arrived the
morning of the 9th, and went into training for
the finishing touches of the tour. The Congress
Hotel housed the last " party," where a thou-
sand fans rose as one to the toast:
" The White Sox! May they always win; but
win or lose, the White Sox! "
BLAZING NEW TRAILS
Comiskey starts roaming early Special trains
become an institution First to train on foreign
soil Annual fall hegiras to the northern woods
begin Tale of the " blanks" and the stationary
bird An Indian uprising near Springstead
Muskie and the tenderfoot.
Roaming always had a special attraction to
Comiskey. It was this trait of his character which
sent him around the world. Perhaps he acquired
it looking for ball fields on the prairies around
Chicago when the city was young. Pioneering
became a habit with him and it was a dull year
when he did not discover a virgin training camp
or two or lay out a new route for an exhibition
The Browns afforded him his first opportunity
to see the country. After having won the world 's
championship in 1886 he took the team to Cali-
fornia. On the way out he played games with
local teams. On the coast he met Anson's White
Stockings and the Philadelphia Nationals. He
264 " Commy "
repeated the western trip in 1889, playing the New
York Giants and other teams.
His years in Cincinnati and the minor leagues
kept him off the road until he finally settled in
Chicago. In the beginning he adjusted his jour-
neys to prospective receipts. He has yet to make
a losing spring trip or exhibition jaunt. About
ten years ago the Sox trained in Texas, coming
north by easy stages. Another major league
team, equally well advertised, covered practically
the same territory. Comiskey was $6,000 ahead
at the finish. The other combination lost $3,500.
Practically every team that has invaded Cali-
fornia lost money on the venture. Comiskey took
his White Sox to the Golden State in 1908 for his
first far west training trip. Everybody predicted
that it would cost him a lot of money.
' ' If it does, ' ' said Comiskey, ' * we will have a
lot of fun spending it as we are going out in a
train of our own.'*
It was the first special that ever rolled into a
training camp. Thereafter the Sox always
traveled to the spring camps by special train
until the war put a stop to the luxury. Inci-
dentally the first California tour netted the Old
Roman $7,000. The train cost him an equal sum.
He took similar chances in 1909, 1910, 1913, 1914
Blazing New Trails 265
" How do you do it? " asked a fellow owner.
" It is all in knowing when to let go," was the
Perhaps that was not the real reason, but the
fact remains that Comiskey has visited more
corners of the earth than any other magnate in
the game. Outside of the world tour his most
ambitious project was the spring training trip
to the City of Mexico in 1907. He had gone to
Marlin, Texas, in 1904, a journey of over 1,600
miles, and experts of the game predicted that it
would be a ' ' bloomer. ' ' As for Mexico, aside from
the expenses and distance, the altitude over
7,000 feet would be the finish of the Sox, it
" Oh, never mind," parried the Old Eoman.
" Altitude won't bother the Sox. They were
above everybody else in baseball last year so they
are used to it. ' '
The experiment proved a success artistically
even if not financially, although the Mexicans took
readily to the game. Vice-President Kaymon
Corall, less apt to be made a target by disap-
pointed patriots than Porfirio Diaz, set the pace
for social and political amenities. The rest of the
official family fell in line and in Mexico the grand
stand became a center of society.
As vociferous and insistent rooters the Mexicans
266 " Commy "
run a close second to the Japs. They will become
even more personal in criticism than the Nip-
ponese if the pitcher wobbles or the batter strikes
out. Big Ed Walsh, perspiring and red-necked,
labored hard to get a break to the ball in the
rarified atmosphere. When " otro toro " swelled
to a chorus in the bleachers he interpreted it as
an encouragement to his efforts until a resident
American sent word to Manager Jones that the
native rooters insisted on a change in pitchers.
They had voiced their demands for " another
bull " in no mistaken accents and ever afterwards
" otro toro " had an ominous sound to the Big
Leaving the valley of the Aztecs the players
were of the opinion that the two weeks under the
" high sky " had been wasted. The pitchers had
been unable to get a decent curve over the plate.
The ball refused to " break " to the usual twist
of the wrist and as for the fielders, they were help-
Judging a ball in that atmosphere was mere
guess work. Fielder Jones, one of the greatest
outfielders in the business, missed the first high
fly sent in his direction by fifty feet. Frank Isbell
stood under a pop-up at third base and saw it
drop ten feet away from him.
" The ball weighs a ton when it comes down,"
Blazing New Trails 267
complained Izzy after the game in the hearing of
' ' Well, the one I saw come down at third base
didn't make your fingers sore," cut in the " Old
Eoman. ' '
But training on the roof of the continent had
an unexpected sequel. On the return north, play-
ing at sea level, the pitchers discovered that they
could get a better break on the ball than they ever
had before. To the batters the ' ' pill ' ' looked like
a pumpkin and had the reaction lasted the Sox
probably would have broken up the league race
with their sticks instead of subsiding into " hit-
less wonders." The explanation was that extra
efforts of the pitchers and the keenness of the
batters in trying to locate the ball in the Mexican
altitudes contributed to increased efficiency when
once they were back in natural surroundings.
In 1911 the Sox put Mineral Wells, Texas, on
the map. They have trained there ever since,
with the exception of two years.
For the season of 1917 Comiskey had picked the
Isthmus of Panama as training grounds for his
team. Lack of transportation, due to the war, put
a stop to that. A South American tour still is on
the program. " Commy " has expressed a wish to
play at Capetown and Johannesburg. The latter
place offered him $5,000 if he would include the
268 " Coramy "
African mining center in his world tour itinerary.
Wherever the Sox go, a trainload of camp fol-
lowers are certain to be on the trail. Many found
it inconvenient to go in the spring. For these
" Commy " instituted the annual fall hegiras to
the northern woods. Prominent men in all walks
of life and from different sections of the country
have been guests of Comiskey at Springstead and
Mercer, Wisconsin. The Jerome Hunting and
Fishing Club on Trude Lake, has achieved a
The parties seldom have been below sixty in
number. Some have been bigger. All have been
lively. What the best hotels could offer in food
and drink could be had at these Indian Summer
camps. In addition the natives, white and red,
have insisted on contributing everything that for-
est and stream produced.
Springstead was in the real forest primeval.
The noise never disturbed the neighbors. At first
there was only one a trapper three miles away.
The distance to Fifield, the nearest railroad sta-
tion, was thirty-five miles. It took a day to make
the trip by wagon autos were unknown in Wis-
consin woods in the days of 1903. A week was
required to haul out the provisions and the party
each fall was usually big enough to press into
service every spare vehicle of the lumber town.
Blazing New Trails 269
Sham battles with Indians, salutes and a crav-
ing for noise generally, required an extensive
arsenal. An opportunity was offered those who
boasted of their marksmanship. Ban Johnson was
considered a crack shot. Spotting a bird along
the roadside going in, Ban was given the try, but
it was with some amazement that the travelers
watched the grouse take wing after the report of
the gun. Another was located and this also
joined its mate. Others did likewise.
At the next halting place Johnson, without say-
ing a word, stuck a piece of paper on a tree and
blazed away at a distance of fifty feet. He
apparently had made a miss with both barrels
and there was a laugh all around.
Further on the guide discovered a grouse some
distance in front of the first vehicle. Tom Loftus,
who held the record as practical joker of the
American League, was given the benefit of the first
" Well, here is where I show up Ban," he said,
as the report reverberated through the woods.
The bird never moved.
" Give it the other barrel, Tom," encouraged
Johnson, who had rushed up. The second load of
No. 7 made no more impression than the first and
Loftus made a motion as if to club the bird into
submission. On second thought he decided to
270 " Commy "
sneak up on it. Grabbing it in both hands he
found it rooted to the spot, supported by stilts and
tied with strings.
" Well, anyway, Ban, I got you on the blanks,"
said Loftus as he disengaged the very dead bird.
Springstead was only six miles from the Flam-
beau Chippewa Indian reservation. One year
every able-bodied member of the tribe had been
engaged to give August Herrmann and other
prominent politicians from Cincinnati a fitting
welcome. It was to take place at night and besides
the " reception," the program included a scare
and a war dance. The chairman of the National
Commission couldn't come, but the red fire had
to be put to some use and the ammunition
As luck would have it, there were several
tenderfeet along who stood in need of a woodland
initiation. Thus it happened that while a score
or more were wrestling with busted flushes, high
and low, and melded aces in the main cabin one
night, a guide rushed in and announced that the
Indians were coming. The lights went out in a
twinkling while defensive plans were discussed in
subdued tones in the darkness. Through the win-
dows could be seen a distant shack already
enveloped in a carmine fire while shots and yells
rent the air.
Blazing New Trails 271
* * The cabin will be ablaze in a few minutes and
we will burn like rats," suggested somebody from
behind the stove.
" Only thing left is to rush 'em," proposed
" Don't let them get me, Commy," piped a
voice from under the bed in the farthest corner
of the room.
" I'll die with you, Jack," encouraged the
" Old Eoman " as he threw himself on top of the
bed, almost knocking the wind out of the victim
Had not someone laughed as a valiant " loop-
hound " from Chicago hit his head on the wood
box trying to make a " stage " fall, some of the
city bred folks might have died of fright.
The refugee under the bed got even the follow-
While he was out in a boat with Tom Loftus
an eighteen pound muskie was snagged by the
Dubuque magnate. The excitement of the night
before had so unnerved Jack that he was in no
condition to gaze with serenity on the fish as the
latter almost jarred the slats loose from the side
of the boat. Grabbing a revolver from the kit
he emptied the contents in the general direction
of the muskie 's head, blew a hole in the bottom
of the boat and almost drowned both.
272 " Commy "
Most of the tricks " Commy 's " guests played
on each other were less risky but more pointed.
Courts-martial were a favorite form of amuse-
ment. These were conducted according to Hoyle,
as there were always enough bona fide judges and
lawyers in the party to assure even-handed jus-
tice. Some of the greatest speeches it has been
my privilege to listen to I have heard in the
" shack " that the Woodland Bards sing about,
and all because someone had failed to " follow
suite," had eaten between meals, had snored or
missed roll call at tea time.
The possibilities of land and water having been
exhausted at Springstead, Comiskey and his
friends obtained control of the Jerome Hunting
and Fishing Club, twelve miles from Mercer, in
1907. Here the Woodland Bards organized, the
qualification for membership consisting in at
least one visit to the camp. For eleven years the
club has been open summer and winter for the
friends of the White Sox owner. The two weeks
immediately following the close of each baseball
season made the special event.
At the last " roundup " the place consisted of
600 acres of land, all enclosed with a sixteen foot
woven wire fence. Being an ardent lover of ani-
mals Comiskey started an out-door zoo, which at
present consists of nearly 300 head of deer, a herd
Blazing New Trails 273
of elk, moose and buffalo. Monte, the antelope,
and Minnie, the doe, became famous all through
northern Wisconsin because of their tricks on
unsuspecting guests. Wild fowls of many kinds
were added and from the reserve stocks the zoos
in Chicago and Cincinnati have profited, as has
also the Wisconsin state game preserve.
The greatest loss to Comiskey, who has footed
the bills for practically all the animals, was the
departure of " Big Bill," the moose. Bill was
.captured in the Rainy Lake region while still
wobbling. He was brought up on a bottle at Camp
Jerome and in time grew up to become one of the
most magnificent antlered specimens on the con-
tinent. One night during a storm, a fallen tree
leveled a section of the fence. Bill found the hole
and struck out for the land of his nativity. Never
deviating a hair's breadth he kept a straight line
for his former home until laid low by a hunts-
man's bullet, much to the grief of the Old Roman,
who had offered a reward of $500 for his capture.
When the big game season opened in the north
Comiskey and his friends were waiting to get the
first shot. A distribution of venison always fol-
lowed the hunt. The jokes that Comiskey and
Ban Johnson played on each other were legion.
On one occasion both came near being made vic-
tims by the manager of a lumber camp in the
274 " Commy "
Rainy Lake region. Awakened early one morning
by the hired man the nimrods were told that a
big buck was browsing in the tamarack swamp.
" Coming, " answered both in unison, but
Comiskey thought better of it, rolled over and
went back to sleep. Johnson jumped into his
hunting clothes, grabbed a rifle and, after crawling
through the brush for a mile or so, spied a pair
of magnificent antlers.
11 You've got him," yelled the self-appointed
guide with the report of the gun and, without
giving Ban the benefit of a second look rushed
him to the fallen monarch.
" Grab the other end of the pole," suggested
Ban's companion as the head of the American
League was given his first opportunity to survey
the nicely suspended carcas of a deer.
Johnson had his suspicions, but kept his own
Had Comiskey not taken to baseball he could
have made a living as a cook. His skill in peel-
ing potatoes, boning a bass and skinning an onion,
is second to none. He takes the greatest pleasure
in superintending cooking operations and, while
others have their tussles with the muskie and
bass, he labors over the stewpan and coffee pot
in some clearing in the brush. Having always
lived in the open he is at home in the woods. But
Blazing New .Trails 275
once he made a " break " which nearly cost him
Going down the Flambeau River in northern
Wisconsin on a summer's day he decided to cool
his bare feet in the running waters. He neglected
to keep his underpinnings out of the sun after the
operation and by night they had swelled to twice
their natural size. It was impossible to continue
the journey. In pitch darkness the guide found
a settler's cabin about a mile from the river.
Comiskey sat up all night with his feet in a tub
of buttermilk, but he had waited too long. Blood
poisoning set in and it took one of Chicago's
greatest specialists to save his life.
With the northern woods deep in snow and with
rivers and lakes frozen up, Comiskey found an
outlet for his restlessness at another point of the
Fifteen years ago the much-photographed
houseboat " White Sox " became a famous craft
on the lower Mississippi and its tributaries. The
White River of Arkansas saw it many times. It
was constructed to accommodate about twenty-five
persons. No one ever heard of an empty bunk on
the good ship. The big idea had been originally
to use the craft as a wild fowl supply boat for
those who were compelled to remain at home. If
the company was out of luck the southern markets
276 " Commy "
did a rushing business on the return north of the
The hunting program was not elaborate. Having
anchored the boat in some secluded nook along
the river the hunters were told off, pits were dug,
blinds erected and the slaughter was on. Once
Joe Higgins, public printer of the city of Chicago
and another guest sat in a pit all day waiting for
geese. Decoys were scattered all about them.
Soon they were surrounded with the cacklers, but
in the bottom sat the two arguing over the elec-
tion in the Nineteenth Ward. Spectators on the
houseboat had noticed the flock through their
glasses and Comiskey suggested that someone
row over and help to collect the kill. The rowers
frightened the geese and the noise of flapping
wings disturbed the debate in the pit. The pair
stuck their heads above the edge of the blind and
let go all four barrels. Nothing came down, but
both got a glimpse of the boat in the distance.
" Suppose they are coming for us," suggested
" No, I think not," remarked the printer. " I
have an idea that Commy has sent someone to
take away our guns."
Comiskey 's real parties were staged at home in
Chicago, usually within the " loop." There in
some secluded side room would gather the choicest
Blazing New Trails 277
spirits of the city. Few had a chance to " buy '
while " Commy " was around. The sessions
began during the forenoon and lasted until after
As a storyteller the " Old Roman " has few
peers. In these sessions day after day, night upon
night, old battles of the diamond would be re-
fought, exploits in the woods recounted and plans
laid for the next venture. Any suggestion which
promised a variation was eagerly taken up and
thus, after an all night gathering, " Commy " and
his pals were as likely as not to start on a thou-
sand mile trip in the morning.
Comiskey's abstemious habits in his youth stood
him in good stead in those days. With the mem-
bers of the winter club steadily shifting, hour by
hour, the head of the table looked as fresh at the
finish as at the start. The conversation was
always clean. No one ever tried the experiment
of a salacious story or an outburst of profanity
a second time within hearing of Comiskey.
One of " Commy 's "most famous" hang-outs "
was the " J. V. B. Club " in the Fisher Building
in Chicago. To this spot drifted the " Old
Roman's " friends from all parts of the globe.
The plans for some of the biggest campaigns in
two baseball wars were perfected in the back room.
It is doubtful if there ever was a prominent man
278 " Commy "
in baseball who, at one time or another did not
" sit in " during the continuous sessions, which
began in 1899 and lasted for full twenty years.
FROM " COMMY'S " FRIENDS
From a former baseball enemy It goes double for
two more A tribute from McGraw Al Reach
remembers "Commy" as the "greatest" Lipton
and the autographed ball Spink and Foley recall
Comiskey 's early days "Never another like him,"
says Joe Cantillon.
Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pittsburgh
National League ball club, lost a fortune and his
best players when the American League raided
his team in 1901 and 1902. The aggressive tactics
of Charles A. Comiskey were held largely respon-
sible. Dreyfuss became a baseball enemy of the
" Old Roman " yet the Pittsburgh magnate
wrote this in 1919:
Nothing could give me greater pleasure
than the opportunity to express my apprecia-
tion of Charles A. Comiskey both person-
ally and as a baseball man. I have known
him since 1885, when he managed and played
first base for the famous St. Louis Browns,
then owned by Chris von der Ahe.
280 " Commy "
Comiskey, or " Commy," as he is more
affectionately known by every one, was a
great ball player, a great manager and to-
day he is a great man in baseball affairs, but
above all those things he is greater still as a
man of high character.
I am glad that I have had the pleasure of
being closely acquainted with Mr. Comiskey
during my thirty or more years in baseball.
There is no other baseball friendship I have
made in all that time that I cherish more
highly than the friendship of Charles A.
Comiskey. May he live long and prosper.
Charles H. Ebbets, president of the Brooklyn
Club, also of the opposition, saw his greatest
player, Fielder Jones, jump to the White Sox
but even after that grievous blow he could express
It has been my pleasure to claim the friend-
ship of Charles Comiskey for a period of 35
years, our acquaintance having been formed
in 1884, the second year of my connection
with the Brooklyn Club. That friendship has
firmly continued, despite some baseball dif-
ferences, from that day to this. I think
" Commy " has never, during the past 35
From " Commy's " Friends 2*1
years, had a peer as a quick thinker, batter,
fielder, base runner and playing manager.
I well remember " Commy " in the
Eighties, when, with a practically invincible
team, he used to beat Brooklyn game after
game. On a particular occasion which I have
in mind he came to Brooklyn and gave us a
" show " by switching his team around. Six-
foot " Commy " went to second base and
five-foot-seven Robinson to first. Latham
changed places with Catcher Bushong, put-
ting on the wind pad and mask, Bushong
attempting to play third base. " Commy "
assigned Hudson, his third string pitcher, to
officiate in the box. All we got was a
11 show." Needless to say St. Louis beat
Brooklyn just the same but I thought it was
kind of " Commy " to give us a chance.
Later on he favored Brooklyn by selling us
the releases of Pitcher Caruthers for $7,500;
Pitcher and First Baseman Foutz for $5,500,
and Catcher Bushong for $4,500. It was the
sensational deal of that period. I wish long
life and prosperity to " Commy." He
deserves all that he has and more, too.
August Herrmann, president of the Cincinnati
Ball Club, a power in the National League, afttr
282 " Commy "
sixteen years of intimate relations with Comis-
key, writes :
Charles A. Comiskey's performances as a
player, record as a manager, achievements as
a club executive and unblemished reputation
as a sportsman, have justly earned for him
merited pre-eminence in the annals of the
game to which he has devoted his life.
Not content with his unequaled contribu-
tions to its progress and popularity in the
United States, the " Old Roman ' r has
exploited our National Game in foreign
countries and he will continue his splendid
services until called out by the Great Umpire.
To have known and to have been associ-
ated with him is a source of pride and satis-
faction to all connected with the game.
Few have had a better opportunity to size up
Comiskey than John J. McGraw, now manager
and vice president of the New York Giants. As
a member of the Baltimore Orioles in 1891
McGraw encountered Comiskey in the American
Association and in the three years following he
bumped up against him while " Commy " was
with the Cincinnati team. For four months the
two were together in their trip around the world.
In 1917 they clashed in a world's series. After
From " Commy's " Friends 283
an acquaintance extending over a period of
twenty-eight years McGraw has formed this esti-
mate of the * * Old Roman ' ' :
After our trip around the world the con-
viction was forced upon me that there was
only one Comiskey. I already knew that on
the ball field he had been in a class by himself,
but I did not know him as a man until I had
rubbed elbows with him for four months,
under all kinds of trying conditions. Despite
the fact that he was suffering from bodily
ills during practically the entire trip, I never
heard him complain, and his cheerful dispo-
sition helped to keep the rest of us on an
In my business dealings with him he was
more than fair. Liberality marked his every
move. Although thousands of dollars were
involved we never had the slightest differ-
ence. All he insisted on was that each team
should play to win and, as he said at the
finish, he had no cause to be disappointed on
Comiskey was famous when I first started
in. He had won four championships for the
St. Louis Browns, so naturally he was a hero
to me from the minute I first saw him. I
284 " Commy "
admire him to-day much more than I did then
for I knew him only as a player in my
younger days. Now I know him as a man.
It is no disparagement to others to say
that some of the greatest players in the game
copied " Commy 's " style of playing. He
taught the first baseman how to play the
position. He furnished the rest of the
infielders with new strategy. He gave you
the impression, wherever you happened to
meet him, that he was always thinking.
There was hardly a game in which he didn't
spring something new. He fought for every
point to the last ditch and, in common with
many others of his time, seldom ran across
an umpire with good eyesight. No one, how-
ever, could say that he did not battle fairly.
Comiskey had his critics but few realized
that he was usually two jumps ahead of
everybody else. That earned him a reputa-
tion for crabbedness on the field when, as a
matter of fact, he was exactly the opposite.
He never spilled a lot of words just to hear
himself talk. There was no one more eco-
nomical with language than Comiskey but
when keyed up every word carried a barb.
Years have not dulled his faculty in this
respect. I know of no man who can get at
From " Commy's " Friends 285
the meat of an argument more quickly than
the owner of the White Sox. It is for that
reason that others listen to him, whether they
are partners or rivals.
In his dealing with players ana owners he
has played the game on the square and in the
open. He has done the same with the fans
and that accounts for his hold on the fol-
lowers of the game. Baseball will thrive
after he is gone but there can never be
Hugh Jennings, an ex-teammate of McGraw's,
has also had a chance to observe him. He writes :
'Comiskey played his last season in Cincinr
nati my first year in the major league. I did
not have much of an opportunity to observe
his good qualities as a player or manager.
I have known him since coming to the Amer-
ican League in 1907. He has always been
most generous to the press and public and his
executive ability, coupled with his faculty of
making friends, has been of inestimable bene-
fit to the American League, particularly in
the City of Chicago.
John M. Ward, who organized the Brotherhood
revolt, and was one of the game's great players,
286 " Commy "
places Comiskey among the * * outstanding figures
in baseball." Ward is now a successful attorney
4n New York but be has not forgotten the old
days, of which he penned the following:
" Commy " is one of the outstanding fig-
ures in baseball. As a manager he ranks with
Ned Hanlon, Connie Mack, John McGraw,
Wilbert Robinson and other great player-
managers. He helped to systematize the
play. As a first baseman he developed the
possibilities of his position. He was the first
man to cut loose from the bag and play deep,
leaving the pitcher to cover the bag on hits
that before his time used to go safely through
to right field.
As a man he 7 was always a generous oppo-
nent and a most lovable character. I have
seen little of him in recent years but have
been glad to read of his success as the presi-
dent and owner of the White Sox. We have
had many hard battles against one another
but he was such a fair fighter in the old days
that I have never lost my regard for him and
shall always wish him the greatest possible
measure of success.
Money is of small moment to Comiskey, accord-
ing to Frank J Navin, president and owner of
From " Commy's " Friends 287
the Detroit Tigers. What Mr. Navin thinks of
his fellow magnate follows :
" Commy " is a true sportsman. He is in
baseball because he loves the game and for
no other consideration. He has plenty of
the world's goods, but I feel sure nothing
could induce him to dispose of the White
Sox. Money to him is only the means of
accomplishing a noteworthy achievement.
He would sooner be the owner of the world's
best baseball club than the biggest financial
giant in Wall street. The sportsmanship of
the man and the deep study he has given his
favorite pastime have been great factors in
his success. Baseball owes a big debt to
Charles A. Comiskey.
Of the scores who have contributed to this
volume none has portrayed the character of
Comiskey more vividly than has A. J. Reach, the
millionaire sporting goods manufacturer of
Philadelphia and the partner of Connie Mack.
Mr. Beach helped the original Athletics to win
the first championship in baseball in 1871, years
before Comiskey donned a uniform but the two
came to know each other intimately later on. As
soon as the Philadelphia magnate was apprised
288 " Commy "
of the project which this book realizes, lie
I am greatly pleased to hear that the life
of Comiskey is about to be written and pub-
lished. No man ever in baseball, with the
possible exception of Al Spalding, has done
more for the game in all of its branches, and
so deserves to have the record of his life and
of his great deeds written, and thus pre-
served for the pleasure of this and the
instruction of future generations of baseball
fans. Certainly no man in baseball, past or
present, has done more to deserve such a
tribute and honor than Charles A. Comiskey.
I cannot speak of Comiskey as a ball player
from personal contact or from the intimate
angle of association on the diamond, as I was
just ahead of his generation. When Comis-
key first burst upon the scene along about
1882 or 1883 I had retired from 'active par-
ticipation in the game for some years, and
was devoting most of my time to a growing
sporting goods business. But I kept in close
touch with every phase of the game and well
remember seeing Comiskey play many, many
times throughout his brilliant major league
career, which I have followed with interest
through all the years down to this day.
From " Commy's " Friends 289
As a ball player, even in that early day, he
exhibited all the qualifications which made
for instant success and laid the foundation
for his future greatness. He played the first
base position years ahead of his time and his
method of playing the bag became the style
which all modern first basemen must use. He
was the first guardian of the initial sack who
realized its fielding possibilities, and played
it as deep almost as short stop. In all re-
spects was his fielding of the position a reve-
lation. In batting and base running he was
also one of the best men of his day.
As a manager he was in a class with Harry
Wright, and shared with that great manager
the distinction of winning four straight pen-
nants, something that no other manager, in
any league, ever accomplished. He was a
consummate handler of men; knew human
nature perfectly a faculty which by the
way he retains to this day; had intimate
knowledge of the strength and weakness of
his players and had the ability to get the best
out of all of them. He was strict with his
men, yet always fair, and absolutely impar-
tial, and this won for him the respect as well
as esteem of his players. His rugged
impartiality and honesty early acquired for
290 " Commy "
him the sobriquet the " Old Roman," which
has clung to him ever since.
Charles A. Comiskey stands out as a great
national heroic figure by reason not only of
his success, but also because he is the only
man in the game to-day who has risen from
the ranks to the position of sole club-owner
in the second largest city of the country a
position which has made him probably the
richest individual club owner in the coun-
try all achieved by his own labor and
effort in the face of many discouragements.
To his artistic excellence must be added
other distinctions besides the winning of four
consecutive pennants. I think he is the only
manager or club owner who has won two
World's Series in different leagues; he
shares with Boston the distinction of never
having lost a World's Series and he shares
with Mr. Spalding the distinction of having
spread the gospel of baseball over the earth
by a world tour of two major league teams,
Take it all in all the baseball career of
Comiskey has been wonderful, unique in
many respects, and superlatively great in
every way, and it is therefore entirely fitting
that it should be imperishably commemo-
rated in a printed volume, for the enlighten-
From " Commy's " Friends 291
merit and instruction of this and future gene-
rations, so that when he is gone we may
justly say with the immortal bard, " We
shall not look upon his like again." Mean-
time I sincerely hope that Comiskey may be
spared for many years to come in order not
only to continue his heroic work for the good
of baseball, but to enjoy the well deserved
prosperity and popularity that has crowned
his life work.
As Mr. Reach is a veteran among owners, so
is Frank C. Bancroft among the managers.
* ' Banny " as he is best known to his friends was
manager of the Providence pennant winners in
1884 when Charley Radbourne hung up his great
pitching record. He is now and has been for
almost a generation business manager of the Cin-
cinnati Reds. He teamed it with " Commy " in
the years 1892-93-94. This is what he has to say :
It was my good fortune to be connected
with " Commy " from 1892 to 1895 as busi-
ness manager of the Reds when he managed
the team. No one was ever more loyal to his
employers than was " Commy " to Messrs.
Brush and Lloyd, who owned the club at that
time. While many of the present-day man-
agers seem to consider it a favor to play an
292 " Commy "
exhibition game " Commy " told me to book
as many as I could as he considered it better
for the team to play than to lay idle. He
was not in the best of health at that time but
he played in every game scheduled.
No manager ever had the quick wit that
Comiskey had. I remember on one occasion
Mr. Brush and he had a conference. After
it was over Mr. Brush remarked to me:
-<< The captain missed his vocation. He
should have been a lawyer."
People who knew Mr. Brush can appreciate
the value of the remark as it came from a
man who in legal acumen and baseball mat-
ters, in my belief, never had an equal.
The " Old Roman " originated a peculiar
way of playing first base, playing deep in
right and making his pitchers cover the bag
when he could not reach it. We have had
great first basemen since his day but none
has been in his class. He was also a fighter,
always leading his team, and I think he has
landed more pennants than any other man-
ager who played ball.
To my mind the American League owes its
success to the brains of Charles Comiskey
more than any other man living. It was
11 Commy " who made Ban Johnson presi-
From " Comm/s " Friends 293
dent and no one knows better than Ban him-
self the value of his counsel. Comiskey has
a host of friends in Cincinnati and as one
of them, I voice the sentiment of all, when
I say that as a man, player and friend, he
never was or never will be equaled.
Al Spink was instrumental in signing Comiskey
for the St. Louis Browns, as secretary of the
club. Mr. Spink had seen the lean younster play
on the Chicago lots, as both were natives of Chi-
cago. Differing from others in his judgment
of " Commy " as a pitcher, he agrees with the
rest as to his many other qualities. He writes:
My first view of Comiskey was in the
Seventies. At that time in Chicago great
interest was felt in the amateur games which
were played on the prairies then surround-
ing the city. There were diamonds laid out
at Lake and Ada, Oakley and Monroe, Har-
rison and Wood, Leavitt and Van Buren and
at Madison street and Western avenue, on
the West Side. There were other grounds;
one on the North Side, where the Atlantics,
later the Aetnas, held forth, and on the
South Side the home of the Pastimes.
The Actives, playing at Lake and Ada
streets, the West Ends at Oakley and Mon-
294 " Commy "
roe, the Mutuals at Leavitt and Van Buren
and the Libertys at Western avenue, were
the clubs I often saw Comiskey playing with.
My first peep at him was when he was pitch-
ing for the Libertys at Western Avenue and
Madison street, in a game against the Dread-
naughts, with Ike Fleming handling his
Comiskey was then a tall, slender, serious
faced lad, who sawed wood and said nothing.
He pitched the ball underhanded, not with
much speed, but with a very good command
for that time.
It was several years after my first view of
Comiskey in Chicago that Ted Sullivan
brought the Dubuque Babbits to St. Louis to
play a series of games with the then co-
operative Browns. I was secretary of that
club and it was through my efforts that Sulli-
van brought the Dubuques to St. Louis to play
a couple of exhibition games. They came in
" Sullivan sleepers " from the Iowa town,
all wearing long linen dusters.
The arrival of the team in St. Louis, June
16, 1881, was a momentous occasion for
Comiskey, for while he had often played in
what he considered important games before,
on this day he was to appear for the first time
From " Commy's " Friends 295
in Sportsmans Park, a regular baseball
enclosure. It was on this field and just before
the game that I had an introduction to
Comiskey which induced me to write him a
letter the following winter, offering him a
position as first baseman of the St. Louis
Browns, a place which he not only accepted
but which he filled with wonderful succes
from 1882 to 1899, inclusive.
The letter which obtained for Comiskey his
first professional job was a subject of con-
versation not long ago when I met him in the
Bards' room at Comiskey Park. Chatting
about old t^mes he said: " Al wrote me a
letter in tht fall of 1881, telling me that Von
der Ahe, who then virtually ow T ned the St.
Louis Browns, was signing up- ball players for
that team, the nine that was to represent St.
Louis in the American Association in 1882,
its maiden season. Al said in his letter:
' They are paying the players from $90 to
$125 a month. Make your terms as low as
possible so I can clinch one of the jobs for
" So there could be no possible chance for
an argument I put my figure at $90. I got
that, however, for only one month. The
second month Vondv raised it to $150."
296 " Commy "
Sir Thomas J. Lipton is a great admirer of
Comiskey. The two have much in common and
both are of Irish extraction. Sir Thomas is one
of four in possession of a life pass to the White
Sox baseball grounds. An interesting story was
in circulation last winter while I was in London,
At the American Army-Navy baseball game
played July 4, 1918, near London, King George,
who was present, autographed a baseball which
was subsequently auctioned off and the proceeds
turned over to charity. Sir Thomas heard about
it while with a party of Americans.
" I have a baseball at home which will bring
more money, if put up for sale, than any ball in
existence," he said. " It was presented to me in
Ceylon, 1914, and it is autographed by Charles A.
Thomas Foley, the " Father of Billiards,"
knows four generations of Comiskeys. He was an
intimate friend of " Honest John " Comiskey.
He saw the alderman's son Charley in his first
game. He knows Lou, heir of the Old Eoman and
he has seen Lou's daughter. With him it is,
" Like father like son."
" No one could know John Comiskey," said Mr.
Foley, " without loving the man. He was the
highest type of gentleman. I can see no differ-
From " Commy's " Friends 297
ence in his son Charles. He is a chip of the old
block with his rugged honesty and pleasing per-
" I saw Comiskey play in his first games on
Chicago prairies. He hasn't changed much since
then except in build and years. He was as serious
in his application to the game in '76 as he is today.
Later as a league player and manager I knew him
well. I know of no man who deserves the success
which has been his as much as Charles Comiskey.
They never come to the surface any better."
Ted Sullivan has generally been given the
credit for the discovery of Comiskey as a ball
player. At any rate the veteran organizer gave
him his first paying job. The two .first met 45
years ago. Sullivan had a high opinion of the
" kid." The impression still remains:
I met Charles Comiskey on the campus of
a Western college where we both were stu-
dents. We met again in Chicago and renewed
old acquaintanceship one year after leaving
school, so we have been friends in business
and baseball since he was 17 years old.
I saw " Commy " begin as a humble
player at a salary of $75 a month with me.
I saw him advance to * captain of the St.
Louis Browns, a team that I managed and
298 " Commy "
then he succeeded me as manager. I saw him
as a club owner in the Western League, a
league that became the " American " after-
wards and made so by the ambition and
natural ability of Comiskey.
He entered his native city against the pro-
tests of the National League and he did it
with a boldness that has ever been his chief
trait. In loftiness and purity of character,
and with a sportsmanship that has given him
the great quality that has endeared him to
the citizens of Chicago, he stands to-day in a
class by himself.
He is without a taint in speech or thought ;
he never was guilty of a vulgar or obscene
story. As a wit he is original. He stands
to-day above his compeers in the National
game as a mountain does above its foothills.
As a ball player Comiskey was the equal
of Cobb as a run-getter. It was when a
game was close that his greatness came to
the surface. To tie up a game or win it in a
pinch when on the bases was his delight.
Time and time again I saw him do it while
playing and captaining the four-time winners
of the American Association.
As a first baseman he never had an equal
in mentality or mechanical finish. He was
From " Commy's " Friends 299
the poetry of motion in receiving or fielding
the ball and this, added to his magnetism and
dash, made him the most finished first base-
man in the history of the game.
Joe Cantillon, manager of the Minneapolis
team in the American Association, found out that
a story on " Commy " was being written. It
interested Joe, as no one has been closer to the
" Old Roman " than he. When the two did not
scrap over decisions on the ball fields or, later,
over trades, they usually were fishing or hunting
together. As a story teller Joe is second only to
the owner of the White Sox. In his own inimit-
able style he sat down and wrote twenty pages of
reminiscences to the author, the longest letter he
ever indited. Some of the material has been incor-
porated in other parts of the book. His closing
sentence has not It is:
1 1 There will never, never be another ' Commy, '
so go as strong as you can."
This homely tribute, we believe, came from the
heart. Others, it seems, have been dictated by
similar emotions. Had they not, there would have
been no chapter on " appreciation," nor could it
have been added:
" He played no favorites."
' ' He never hit below the belt. ' '
A PEN PICTURE OF THE " OLD ROMAN "
Life is one of epigrams Comiskey never saw a
popular auditor Cuts his cloth according to
means Queer experiences with ball players Um-
pires as he saw them Sun glasses and a $6 mat-
tress Puts aside the crown World does not
owe him a living.
Analyzing Comiskey 's character is a task for
the psychologist. The author of this book and
numerous contributors have touched upon some
of his traits, but merely as observers. What
follows may not adequately portray his many-
sided nature but it will help to tint the picture.
Comiskey 's life has been one of epigrams. Inci-
sive irony and wit have punctuated his speech on
the field and around the council table. Pointed
retorts have disarmed opponents. A terse com-
ment has often swung a big business deal. He has
always hit straight from the shoulder with single-
ness of purpose but even though hewing to the
line, caution has ever dictated the distribution
of the chips.
Pen Picture of the " Old Roman " 301
He has avoided the complex in life. With him
it has been aiming at the bull's eye. His vision
has been straight ahead. Sometimes he has left
the impression that he permitted his affairs to
drift with the stream, but at the same time no one
ever noticed that he picked out the wrong landing
place. Again he has shown traits of inconsistency.
He has been given credit for having a well
balanced mind but some allege he has amassed a
fortune without a system.
Rivals of Comiskey insist that he is a keen
business man one of the shrewdest in the game
yet the needs have always determined the daily
procedure in the conduct of his own affairs. Dur-
ing his first ten years in Chicago he got along
without the services of a bookkeeper. Charles
Fredericks, a nephew who combined the duties of
secretary and treasurer of the White Sox club,
kept the office ledger in his inside coat pocket.
Each year he had to invest fifteen cents for a new
book, but not a penny went astray. The handling
of the funds was simplicity itself. Each day's
receipts were dumped into a satchel and taken to
a downtown bank. Necessary payments were made
by check. What was left at the end of the season
was reckoned as profits.
A friend of Comiskey suggested the employ-
ment of an efficiency expert for his office, after he
302 " Commy "
had moved into the quarters he now occupies.
" I don't need him," said Comiskey. " It isn't
system that the fans want. They want seats and
good ball games. I never saw a popular auditor
The lack of system did not prevent him from
running his club on business principles. His
players received what they were worth when they
first signed. If they lasted perhaps they got more
than they could earn in time. Gossip had it that
he was " free with his friends but ' close ' with
his ball players." There is a heap o' truth in the
first. The fact that not a single one of his play-
ers jumped to the Federal League gives the lie
to the second.
Comiskey 's fixed principle was always to gauge
the outlay for ball players by his receipts. If the
income did not match the expenses the team would
be trimmed down. Thus, he did not start out as
an owner with special trains nor put up in the
finest hotels. As soon as the bank roll permitted,
nothing was too good for his men.
" The man who does not keep track of the pay
roll has no business in baseball," he said once
when told that a major league magnate had gone
How he cut his cloth according to his means
was illustrated while he was in St. Paul. He had
Pen Picture of the " Old Roman " 303
a chance to buy Chauncey Fisher from the Cin-
cinnati Club. Joe Cantillon was the biggest
booster for the pitcher.
1 ' He would be a great man for your league and
you should get him, ' ' urged Cantillon.
<l But he wants $275 a month," interposed
" Well, he is worth it to you," insisted Joe.
"Is he if I don't take in the money at the
gate? " queried Commy.
Comiskey had little patience with the player
who developed expensive tastes with the growth
of the game. Once he was apprised that one of his
star players was going to quit unless he was given
an increase over his $10,000 salary.
" So he is going to quit, is he! " mused Comis-
key. " When I was playing ball I was always
afraid that the game was going to quit me."
Although the owner of the Sox encouraged
saving on the part of his men he was as little
enamored of the miser as of the spendthrift or
the aristocratic hold-out. Starting his career in
" Sullivan sleepers," which meant the day coach,
he never has been able to fully appreciate the
idiosyncrasies of modern ball players. It has
always been a puzzle to him why a player who at
home thought he was wasting his own money if
he paid more than $5 a week at a boarding house
304 " Commy "
should roar at an ' ' upper ' ' or protest against
not getting a front room on the parlor floor.
On a training trip one spring the team stopped
at the best hotel in New Orleans. The third day
one of the players, who had been known to do hia
own cooking at home, announced that he was going
to quit. He was asked why.
" I can't stand the eats," was his reply.
In the early days the players were given $3 a
day for meals while on trains. One of the men on
a trip to Boston left Chicago with $1.50 in his
pocket. He arrived with $3.50, but roared because
the caviar served at the hotel was not to his liking.
On the first training trip of the Sox to Cali-
fornia the team was put up at what was considered
the best and highest priced hotel in San Fran-
cisco. It had such a reputation for exclusiveness
that John I. Taylor, then owner of the Boston Red
Sox had offered to wager $100 with' Comiskey that
he couldn't get in. On the team at the time was a
big raw-boned rookie. After having enjoyed the
hospitality of the place for two days the recruit
threatened to leave.
" What's the trouble? " asked Comiskey.
" Why, he complains because it is too swell and
that there are too many rugs in the lobby. He
slipped on one and sprained his ankle," explained
Pen Picture of the " Old Roman " 305
Comiskey still remembers one player who didn't
kick. Coming up from Texas one spring the team
had to take potluck in a second rate Oklahoma
hotel. Everybody kicked and the gang didn 't care
how far their voices carried. " Tex " Jones, a
lanky Kansan, was trying out with the team. After
he had listened to the conversation in the dining
room a few times he stopped all arguments with
" I haven't any license to kick. It is better
than I get at home."
The hospital list on a modern ball team is
another thing the " Old Roman " is unable to
Having been educated in a school where hard
knocks were the daily program and where a ball
team was made up of ten or twelve men, he occa-
sionally fails properly to sympathize with the
" injured " player.
" When I was in the game I didn't dare to stay
out for fear that somebody would get my job, ' ' he
said in discussing the tendency of high priced
athletes to lay off on the least provocation.
Several years ago John Anderson cavorted
around first base and in the outfield with the
White Sox. Comiskey found it to the advantage
of the team to carry an extra man while Anderson
was incapacitated by reason of sickness or spit-
306 " Commy "
ball pitchers, either of which put him on the side-
lines. Following one season Comiskey was on an
outing when he received a letter from Anderson
asking a $3,000 salary.
*' Pretty strong," suggested Commy 's com-
" Yes, it is," said Comiskey after a pause, " but
maybe John is going to pay the substitute him-
Being of a restless disposition and always up
and doing, it grated on " Commy 's " nerves to see
extra players do nothing but take on weight.
"When manager of the Cincinnati team Morgan
Murphy caught practically all the games, accord-
ing to Frank Bancroft. This left Harry Vaughn,
the second backstop on the bench most of the time.
Spotting Harry at the end of the board during a
sizzling game he said :
" Harry, I don't want to overwork you, but will
you please carry the mask and chest protector to
Morgan. ' '
Joe Cantillon came out to the Sox ball park the
morning of the first game between the Sox and
Cubs for the world's championship in 1906. Joe
wanted a tip on the chances of the South Siders
and noticing a bandage on a player's hand, asked
" Commy " about it.
" I don't know why he is wearing it, but I sup-
Pen Picture of the " Old Roman " 307
pose he has heard that we are going to play him
today," was Comiskey's response.
Being a past master of irony the players usu-
ally dodged him after a blunder. Sometimes the
field was too small for this maneuver. Scott
Stratton of the St. Paul team found it so after he
had taken three healthy swings as a pinch hitter.
" I did the very best I could," mumbled Strat-
ton on his return.
" Yes, I think you did, Scott, but I did the very
worst in sending you up, ' ' said Comiskey.
That hard-loser streak in his makeup usually
cropped out in every game. What the players
missed in sarcasm the umpires caught. Joe Can-
tillon, then an umpire and " winter friend " of
Commy, " stopped " most of the verbal attacks,
probably because " Commy " enjoyed his
repartee, for which he was noted. Once in St.
Paul, when Detroit was leading the Saints 16 to
in the eighth inning Joe called the game on
account of darkness. Comiskey accosted him.
" Why did you call the game? " demanded the
" You didn't think you had a chance to win it,
did you? " retorted the umpire.
" No, not after you had called it," responded
" In a series of games between St. Paul and
308 " Commy "
Minneapolis, always bitterly fought," relates
Cantillon, " President Johnson sent up an extra
umpire to help me out. We opened up at St. Paul
and my assistant being a strictly ' home ' umpire
started in to trim Minneapolis right and left. I
was roasted to a turn while everybody cheered the
" On the following day we played in Minne-
apolis and Ban's arbitrator reversed his tactics of
the day before. As decision after decision went
against St. Paul, * Commy ' finally yelled:
11 * Joe, are you going to stand for that crook
trimming me in this way! '
' ' Well, your people cheered him all day yester-
day," I answered.
" l That's all right, Joe,' said Comiskey, ' He
will be a great man for me again tomorrow, but I
want you to take care of me today.'
All the irony was not vented on the umpires.
While Jimmy Callahan was manager, John Col-
lins, the veteran right fielder, fell as he was get-
ting set to catch a long fly in an important game.
The mishap cost two runs. Collins had new sun
goggles, the purchase of which Comiskey had
When the manager entered the Old Roman's
office the following morning he was greeted with:
" Well, I got that bill of $9 for Collins' sun
Pen Picture of the " Old Roman " 309
glasses, all right. While you were about it why
didn't you add $6 more and get him a mattress."
On the whole, taking into consideration aes-
thetic tastes and other peculiarities, Comiskey has
less trouble with his players than perhaps any
other owner in the game. The reason is because
he plays no favorites. He alone is the judge of
the worth of the man he signs and after one con-
tract there is seldom any grounds for complaints.
The player depends on Comiskey for a square
deal and if he delivers, he knows that he is going
to get everything that is coming to him.
A similar policy marks " Commy 's " affairs
outside of his ball club. Ever since he first
started to make " copy " for the newspapers
there has been much mystery why he should get
so much publicity. There is no secret about it.
He has furnished news fit to print, has treated
the cub reporter with as much consideration as
the veteran, has been without an " organ," and
has never asked for a retraction.
" Print the story first and then have Commy
confirm it," has been the rule among newspaper
men whenever anyone has thought that he had an
exclusive item. If the opposite tack were pur-
sued Commy would be certain to call up all the
rest of the " boys " and it would no longer be
a " scoop." To deny a yarn because it was not
310 " Commy "
true or because it didn't please him, never entered
his mind. Pressed for an explanation he would
find refuge in, " Well, it must be right. The
Bazoo says so." If on the other hand the truth
or falsity of a report needed clearing up, a
" Comiskey statement " would stand the test.
Never an equivocation. It was either " yes " or
" no." These are the reasons why he has broken
into print more often, perhaps, than any other
man in the game.
Although perhaps art did not appeal to Comis-
key as strongly as a .300 slugger there could be
no doubt of his appreciation of its utilitarian
advantages. While walking through the National
Museum at Naples, Italy, he paused in front of
the heroic statue of Hercules. He permitted his
eyes to roam admiringly over the massive figure
until they rested on the huge club which had done
such execution in the Theban and Cretan leagues,
"What a pinch hitter he would have made! "
Comiskey is fair game for the joker, but he has
made it a practice never to * ' kid ' ' himself.
" Why not mayor of Chicago? " was the query
propounded to the " Old Roman " by influential
politicians, who several years ago decided that
the owner of the White Sox would poll a vote
commensurate with his popularity.
Pern Picture of the " Old Roman " 311
" I would rather win a pennant than an elec-
tion," was the answer.
He explained that he was a baseball man first,
last and all the time, and that politics and the
game did not mix.
The subject of this sketch is not without his
faults, but his worst would seem as virtues to
many. He is prone to exaggerate a personal slight
and to enlarge upon the motives of those with
whom he disagrees. He is sensitive as regards his
own honor and reputation. Considering his mental
bent, this is but natural, as he himself insists in
playing all the cards above the table.
In a fight ke is uncompromising if he thinks he
is right. He will have to be " shown " to be
proven wrong. He is a hard loser, but a generous
opponent. He will go the limit for a friend, but
it will take much persuasion to make him forget
He is considerate to the last degree, but knows
how to insist upon his rights. He is original, but
without mannerisms. He is a mixer and spender,
but knows the value of money.
Comiskey's personal magnetism gains him
friends wherever he goes but he holds them
because he is human. He is a good judge of his
fellow men but occasionally falls a prey to the
designing. He has little patience with the non-
312 " Commy "
producer and this has given him the reputation of
a hard task master. He is a self-made man and,
like his kind, expects much from others. He is
independent in means, habits and thoughts,
standing on his own feet. What sets him apart
from those who enjoy his hospitality is that the
chief tenet in his creed is that the world does
NOT OWE him a living.
From the beginning he has been walking in
the open. He has simple tastes, living most of
his life in a cottage or a " flat," but he has spent
a quarter of million dollars on his friends. " To
buy " has been a privilege with him that he has
been chary to accord to others.
Physically " Commy " is of the upstanding
type six feet in height. His facial contour
helped to bestow upon him the appellation " Old
Roman." He can now be classed among the
heavyweights, but he was not always so. When,
playing ball, altitude was all he could boast of.
When he wanted to make a " front " as an
athlete he thrust his nether limbs into two pairs
of heavy stockings and even then no bulging
In middle life an abundance of black, wavy
locks gave him the appearance of Edwin Booth.
His hair is more sparse now, but his forehead has
not receded. For years he has affected a gray
Pen Picture of the " Old Roman " 313
hat of distinctive shape, the headpiece matching
in color a pair of piercing eyes. It is the " Old
Gray Bonnet " that the Bards sing about. They
also set the story of the " Homeplate " to music.
The " Homeplate ' : ' is a cottage up in the
woods, presented to the " Old Roman " a few
years ago by hundreds of friends who have par-
taken of his hospitality. A Chicago judge made
the presentation speech. " Commy " responded.
He stood on a tree stump in delivering it. I only
remember one thing that he said. I couldn't
forget that. It was the index to his character.
I believe it was from the heart. It was:
" All my life I have tried to be on the square
BY " COMMY " HIMSELF
It is fitting that the man who has furnished
the subject matter for the preceding chapters
should have a hearing on his own account. Up
to this time he has had a chance only to vouch
for the facts, so permit the " Old Roman " to
speak for himself:
By Charles A. Comiskey.
Having a biography prepared has always
seemed to me as either superfluous or in the nature
of an epitaph. The omission of both sometimes
would seem to be of an advantage to the living.
Also the " story " of a man should denote some
achievement. I hope that what I have accom-
plished has been in the open, so it cannot be con-
sidered new. If it has not been out of the com-
monplace it should not be called noteworthy.
Others have done as much as well, so I must
consider it a special compliment of the author
and publisher to have taken the chance they have
in producing tkis book.
By "Commy" Himself 315
I can furnish no secret documents from hidden
archives but I can make the statement that the
world has given me a square deal possibly
more than I am entitled to. I can think of no
exception. It has been all the same whether I
have been a temporary or a permanent guest in
any community in which I have lived.
I was perfectly satisfied with the West Side of
Chicago when I was in knickerbockers. I hope
it was with me. They treated me fine in Mil-
waukee, in Elgin and Dubuque. No one could
have been given more consideration than I was
in St. Louis. It is impossible to register a kick
against Cincinnati and it is with pleasure that I
recall my five-year stay in St. Paul. I think I
left with a fair share of the population my
Naturally Chicago has seemed different to me
from the rest. It has never ceased to be my home.
I was born here and here I hope to finish. If the
people think as much of me as I do of them there
can be no grounds for disagreement. There is no
sectional feeling in my allegiance to the city of
my birth because there happens to be a White
Sox family on the South Side. I have as many
personal friends on the West and North sides
as I have on the South.
Words cannot express my real feelings towards
316 " Commy "
the people of Chicago. Did I have the power of
expression that others possess I would com-
pletely fail in voicing my appreciation of what
they have done for me. They encouraged me
when I first came to the city. Since then they
have built a ball park for me and made it possible
for me to get together teams which, at different
times, have been fortunate enough to repay them
for their outlay. Not I or my managers have
won pennants for Chicago. The fans alone have
raised the flags which have flown on the South
Occasionally I have been charged with the
crime of " buying " pennants. If I am guilty it
has been for the sake of those who furnished
the money. I have been counted a hard loser.
My friends wanted me to have a winner. The
fans have insisted upon it. The winning of indi-
vidual ball games contributes to the total and
without more victories at the end of the season
than anyone else there would have been no cham-
I have fought for every point because, through
bitter experience, I early learned that one lost
decision sometimes may mean the loss of a pen-
nant. It is the small things in life which count;
it is the inconsequential leak which empties the
By " Commy " Himself 317
Many have spoken about my luck. I admit that
I have been fortunate in many of my undertak-
ings but I do not think that success is governed
by the throw of the dice. I do not claim that
I have been more foresighted than others. I have
had my reverses but I have tried not to lose my
The real secret of my good luck has been that
I could always figure on support. You can do
wonders when you have everybody with you. I
may not be able to figure out why my friends
have been with me but they have. Perhaps it is
because I have tried to be on the level with them.
That should not be a source of pride to me as it
is part of good business. No one has any license
to brag because he is honest. That should be
natural instinct and, besides, if you are not, they
put you in jail. Honesty is merely a form of
I have been given credit, sometimes entirely
unearned, for doing many things for the advance-
ment of the game. I have fought for it because
the game deserved it. Baseball is the greatest
sport in the world. It is the cleanest, besides
affording more people the right kind of amuse-
ment than any other. I do not say that because I
have made my living at it. I say it from the heart.
There have been reports now and then that I con-
318 " Commy "
template disposing of my ball club. I never had
any such intentions. I would be lost without my
team. I have spent my life in the game and I
have no regrets. To me it has not been misspent.
Formerly sport was not regarded as a proper
calling for young men. It is beginning to assume
its rightful place in society. To me baseball is as
honorable as any other business. It is the most
honest pastime in the world. It has to be or it
could not last a season out. Crookedness and
baseball do not mix. It has become immeasur-
ably more popular as the years have gone by. It
will be greater yet. This year, 1919, is the great-
est season of them all.
The reason for the popularity of the sport is
that it fits in with the temperament of the Amer-
ican people and because it is on the square. Every-
thing is done in the open. What the magnates
do behind the screens the fans care nothing about.
Year by year a higher and higher class of play-
ers come into the game. This is not meant as a
slur on those of the earlier days, the pioneers, but
it is a proof of the attraction it has for young men.
The rewards of today are, of course, more in keep-
ing with the efforts than was the case when I broke
into the game. I started in at $3 a day. Now
some players get that much a minute, counting
their actual playing time.
By " Commy " Himself 319
As to a comparison between the players of my
days and today there is no way of arriving at a
conclusion. It is quite possible to pick a " greatest
team," but the selection would be based purely
on personal opinion. I think I had wonderful
players in Caruthers, Foutz, Bill Gleason, 'Neill,
Bushong and others, but it would be a matter of
opinion to compare these with such stars as Ed
Walsh, Billy Sullivan, Jiggs Donohue, Joe Jack-
son, Happy Felsch, Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk,
Eddie Cicotte and a score or more equally as good
who have played for me on my Chicago teams.
We have Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy
Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Grover Alexander, and a
host of others. How would they have stacked up
with Radbourne, Sweeney, Ramsey, Williamson,
Barnes, Pfeffer, Anson, Clarkson, Kelly, and such
outstanding figures'? It is hard to tell. Batting
averages and pitching records do not give the
answer, as conditions under which they played
were different from those of today.
Personally I think Ty Cobb of the Detroit team
is the greatest player of all time. This is no dis-
paragement to others. Ty is in a class by himself.
He is a wonderful batter and would have been
able to hit any kind of pitching in the old days as
well. He is one of the speediest men in the
game. He is as good a fielder as one would want,
320 " Commy "
but above all he is a thinker when in the game.
His mind works every minute and he carries the
team along with him.
In sportsmanship there is little to differentiate
the Eighties from the present. We fought to win
then. The right kind of team does so now. Per-
haps we were a little rougher about it than they
are now and it seemed that we could stand harder
knocks then than can players of today. I do not
mean that the boys have less grit today. I have
some of the gamest players in the world on my
own team, but then there was less arnica on tap.
The spirit of the game remains the same and
that is why I take pride in being identified with
it. With me baseball will never grow old. In
my own estimation it may not have improved so
much as many believe, but regardless of every-
thing it is the same good old game. If I have con-
tributed to its success I do not refer to this in the
sense of boasting. I had to or fall out of the ranks.
It was a fast game when I played it and the pace
was hot. As the fans know, I have often had
trouble in keeping up with it since then, but they
have been forebearing. What I have tried to do
has been my level best.
<>*/ s> rou^c n
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA
COMMY : THE LIFE STORY OF CHARLES A. CO